Dr. Kiran Boggavarapu, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. Anil K. Kandalam, assistant professor of physics, are part of a team that made this recent discovery that was published in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the international chemistry journal.
Boggavarapu and Kandalam collaborated with VCU professor Dr. Puru Jena and Dr. Kit Bowen of the Johns Hopkins University in the discovery of manganese based-magnetic superhalogens.
"The newly discovered MnxCl2x+1 clusters - where x = 1, 2, 3 and so on - are a special class of chemical species called magnetic superhalogens. These clusters mimic the chemistry of halogens, the most electronegative elements in the periodic table that include fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine and astatine. Even though conventional superhalogens have been known for well over 30 years, none of them were magnetic," said Boggavarapu. The word halogen means "salt-former," and when one of the elements above combines with sodium, it can form a salt.
"Superhalogens are like halogens in the sense they form negative ions, but their affinity to attract electrons is far greater than those of any halogen atoms," said Boggavarapu. "Negative ions are useful as oxidizing agents, for purification of air and in serotonin release for uplifting moods."
"The fact that manganese exists in several oxidation states made it an ideal element to form complexes that carry huge magnetic moments. The way to create magnetic superhalogens is to attach halogens, like chlorine, around the manganese atom. This recipe can further be applied to species containing multiple manganese atoms surrounded by appropriate electronegative elements or groups," Kandalam explained.
"These superhalogens exist as negative ions, called superhalides. Yet again, unlike traditional superhalides, these magnetic clusters are magic," he added.
According to Kandalam, magic clusters are the clusters that exhibit extraordinary stability and can potentially be building blocks for novel materials. "Thus, based on this discovery, one can now design and synthesize yet unknown, stable, superhalogen-based magnetic materials that could include a new class of salts.
Boggavarapu explained that the ability to manipulate properties of materials at the nanoscale - one atom at a time - allows scientists to create smart materials for the future.
Last fall, Kandalam collaborated with Jena and researchers from the University of Konstanz in Germany to discover a new class of highly electronegative chemical species called hyperhalogens, which use superhalogens as building blocks around a metal atom. Kandalam said this new chemical species may have future application in many industries.