Scientists in South Korea have made a stable species that incorporates a superatom into another superatom.

Superatoms are nanoclusters of atoms that display properties mimicking those of an elemental atom. The protons and neutrons from the constituent atoms cluster together to form a nucleus surrounded by a delocalised electron cloud, which behaves as one stable atom.

Image showing first nanocluster that is a superatom contained within a superatom

Source: © Royal Society of Chemistry


Now a team at Yonsei University in Seoul has produced the first superatom that includes another superatom. Here the team made [RhH@Ag24(SPhMe2)18]2-, which is isoelectronic to a [PdAg24(SPhMe2)18]2- nanocluster. They doped a silver thiolate nanocluster with rhodium hydride, which is a superatomic equivalent of palladium.

This is also the first time an open d-shell metal, in this case rhodium, had been successfully doped into a nanocluster to form a superatomic entity with a closed d-shell. This rhodium hydride composite could then be incorporated into the silver thiolate nanocluster forming the superatom-in-superatom structure.

It is thought that the heterometal doping strategy used in this study could also be used to tune the properties of nanoclusters to produce new and bespoke superatoms.