Chemists have finally gained access to a complex with a plutonium–carbon double bond, 60 years after the first organo–plutonium complex was reported. This significant discovery offers researchers an opportunity to examine the differences in properties and chemical reactivity between actinides and lanthanides.
In 1965, the first organo-plutonium complex (Pu(C5H5)3) was discovered. However, due to experimental difficulties and the scarcity of plutonium compounds, research into the fundamental properties of this element has been limited. Steve Liddle, head of inorganic chemistry at the University of Manchester and one of the researchers involved in the study, explains that working with plutonium requires a completely different radiological lab setup compared to uranium.
The research has shed light on the experimental differences between lanthanides and actinides. The distinctive divergence in electronic structure as well as the reactivity observed during carbon–carbon double bond formation are clear indicators of these differences. While the study supports the idea that actinides become more lanthanide-like as you go left to right in the actinide series, it also suggests that plutonium may not be at that point yet, indicating a need for further investigation.
Overall, this discovery provides chemists with a better understanding of the properties and chemical reactivity differences between plutonium and analogous lanthanides.