One of the most major properties of the chemical conduct of Pu is the assortment of its oxidation states (the oxidation state is characterized by the number of electrons that are expelled from the valence orbitals of a neutral atom).
Four oxidation states (from III to VI) may coincide under environmental conditions, (VII) and even (VIII) states are proposed to be steady under highly alkaline oxidative conditions.
Pu in the pentavalent oxidation state, Pu (V), has three electrons in the 5f shell, leaving the 6d orbitals void.
“It all started when we were trying to create plutonium dioxide nanoparticles using different precursors,” said Dr. Kristina Kvashnina, a physicist at the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf and based at the ROBL beamline at the European Synchrotron, and her colleagues.
At the point when the specialists utilized the Pu (VI) precursor, they understood that an unusual reaction occurred during the formation of the plutonium dioxide nanoparticles.
“Every time we create nanoparticles from the other precursors, Pu(III), (IV) or (V), the reaction is very quick, but here we observed a weird phenomenon halfway,” Dr. Kvashnina explained.
“We figured that it must be Pu (V), pentavalent plutonium, a never-observed-before form of the element, after doing a high-energy resolution fluorescence detection experiment.”
Further experiments affirmed the initial assumptions and even showed the long-term stability of the phase.
“It is a difficult task and only theoretical predictions are possible, but the existence of this new Pu(V) solid phase, which is stable, will have to be taken into account from now on,” Dr. Kvashnina said.
“It will change, for sure, the theoretical predictions of plutonium behavior in the environment over a period of million years.”
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