In the past few decades, innovative strategies have been developed to stabilize chemical compounds that contain main-group elements in unusually low oxidation states. (Main-group elements are those on the left and right sides of the periodic table, surrounding the transition metals.) Many of these compounds were previously thought to be impossible to obtain as stable materials. This is especially the case for magnesium, a reactive metal whose compounds almost all contain the element in the +2 oxidation state (equivalent to the atoms losing two electrons and having a charge of +2). Writing in Nature, Rösch et al.1 report that magnesium can form compounds in which it keeps all of its electrons, and thereby exists in the zero oxidation state that is normally characteristic of the pure element. These magnesium(0) compounds are stable at room temperature, but are highly reactive, with the metal atoms readily surrendering electrons in chemical reactions that are potentially useful for organic synthesis.
- Inorganic chemistry