Chemistry

Molecules of the Month

Hexafluoroantimonic acid

Hey everyone! Have you ever wondered how a villian in a thriller dissolved bodies with acid? But is that even possible? Definitely with hexafluoroantimonic acid!

It is the strongest known superacid with an incredible H0 of -21! (In comparison: pure sulfuric acid has the H0 value of -11,9 and is, therefore, a trillion times less acidic). Fluoroantimonic acid consists of a strong Lewis acid (antimony pentafluoride) and a strong Bronsted acid (hydrogen fluoride). The acid protonates both glass and almost all organic compounds and is therefore stored in PTFE containers. However, this extreme property is used in technology: Numerous hydrocarbon compounds can be deprotonated – regardless of the solvent. The extreme acid is also used in the petrochemical industry as a catalyst for alkylations and acylations.

So the next time you will watch a movie, you will know exactly why and how it is possible to cover all tracks of a crime.

If you want to learn more about superacids, click here, and if you want to know how you can measure the acidity of superacids, click here. Try not to dissolve anyone! 😉

C60: A soccer ball of organic chemistry

Graphite, graphene, diamond, and … – wait a minute, is there more?
The modifications of carbon – who doesn’t know them? Everyone has heard of graphite and diamond, two very different materials that are made up of the same element!
But today I would like to introduce you to a molecule that belongs to another modification of carbon: C60 – a Fullerene.

C60 is a closed molecule that is composed of five-membered rings and six-membered rings and looks a bit like a soccer ball. It is such an exciting molecule because of its high electron affinity as an electron acceptor. This is used in organic solar cells that are based on an absorber layer with a donor-acceptor combination (more on this here). In such systems, C60 is used almost exclusively.

Fullerenes were first theoretically predicted in 1970 by the Japanese chemist Eiji Ōsawa. However, since his publication was in Japanese, it did not attract much public attention, but only a publication in the journal Nature in 1985 by three other scientists (who then also received the Nobel Prize for the discovery). So new for us and yet so old: In fact, the Hubble microscope has already detected large amounts of C60 in interstellar space!


So you see: Even if carbon may seem like ancient history, there is so much current research into the element and its modifications. In addition to graphite, graphene, and diamond, there is so much more to discover: carbon nanotubes, lonsdaleite, chaoite, and fullerene. An element that is worth a second look!