Researchers have prepared the first complex with a plutonium–carbon double bond, nearly 60 years after the first organo-plutonium complex was reported. This finding presents the opportunity for chemists to gain a deeper understanding of the differences in properties and chemical reactivity between actinides and lanthanides.
Since the report of the first organo-plutonium complex in 1965, research into the fundamental properties of plutonium has been limited due to experimental difficulties and the limited availability of the element. Steve Liddle, head of inorganic chemistry at the University of Manchester and one of the researchers on the study, explains that plutonium compounds are rare, limiting the ability to make experimental comparisons between trans-uranium elements and lanthanides. However, the team’s work has provided an opportunity to do just that.
The study has shed light on the experimental differences between lanthanides and actinides, particularly in terms of the reactivity observed in the Wittig chemistry used to create carbon–carbon double bonds. This work has also revealed a distinct divergence in the electronic structure of these elements. According to Liddle, this study suggests that plutonium does not exhibit the same lanthanide-like properties as previously believed and that there is a real experimental divergence in properties and chemical reactivity between plutonium and analogous lanthanides.