PerspectiveInorganic Chemistry

Polynitrogen chemistry enters the ring

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Science  27 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6323, pp. 351
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal5057

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Polynitrogens have the potential for ultrahigh-performing explosives or propellants because singly or doubly bonded polynitrogens can decompose to triply bonded dinitrogen (N2) with an extraordinarily large energy release. The large energy content and relatively low activation energy toward decomposition makes the synthesis of a stable polynitrogen allotrope an extraordinary challenge. Many elements exist in different forms (allotropes)—for example, carbon can exist as graphite, diamond, buckyballs, or graphene. However, no stable neutral allotropes are known for nitrogen, and only two stable homonuclear polynitrogen ions had been isolated until now—namely, the N3 anion (1) and the N5+ cation (2). On page 374 of this issue, Zhang et al. (3) report the synthesis and characterization of the first stable salt of the cyclo-N5 anion, only the third stable homonuclear polynitrogen ion ever isolated.