Volume 95 Issue 29 | p. 10 | Concentrates
Issue Date: July 17, 2017

Dioxygen is a diradical, so why is it stable?

The answer lies in resonance, researchers say
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Analytical SCENE, JACS In C&EN
Keywords: Chemical bonding, Physical chemistry, Theoretical chemistry, Computational chemistry, Atmospheric chemistry, Dioxygen

Oxygen as O2 is stable enough to be abundant in the environment and is required for many forms of life. But from the standpoint of theory, dioxygen’s stability is curious: Its highest occupied molecular orbitals contain two unpaired electrons, making it a diradical. Instead of wafting around as O2, the molecule should be busy abstracting hydrogen atoms or forming oligomers; isoelectronic sulfur, for example, is most stable as S8. The key to dioxygen’s reactivity lies in . . .

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