PerspectiveCHEMICAL PHYSICS

The link between electrolytes and metals

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Science  05 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6495, pp. 1056-1057
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9717

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Summary

Solutions of alkali metals in liquid ammonia have fascinated scientists for more than 200 years. The “fine blue colour” of a dilute solution indicative of solvated electrons was first noted by Sir Humphry Davy in 1808 [(1), p. 63] and independently published by W. Weyl in 1864 (2). A bronze sheen as the solution becomes highly concentrated (see the figure) develops as these solvated electrons coalesce into a metallic continuum. Charles Kraus, an early pioneer of the study of these solutions (3), noted that “these solutions…constitute a link between electrolytes, on the one hand, and metals, on the other” [(4), p. 83]. On page 1086 of this issue, Buttersack et al. (5) combine low-temperature x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy with high-level simulations to reveal the energetics of metal-ammonia solutions across a large concentration range. These studies provide the missing energetic link to characterize the journey of solvated electrons from electrolyte to metal.

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