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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J021342/1
Title: A chemical holy grail: the synthesis of helium and neon-containing compounds
Principal Investigator: Yang, Dr S
Other Investigators:
Evans, Dr CJ Ellis, Professor A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of Leicester
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 22 October 2012 Ends: 20 October 2015 Value (£): 412,841
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Apr 2012 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - April 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
A central quest of chemistry is to construct new compounds and synthesise entirely new links between atoms using the known elements as the building blocks. The only two long-lived elements in our universe that are not found in any known chemical compounds are helium and neon. Consequently, one of the greatest remaining challenges in the chemical sciences is to incorporate these elements into synthetic chemistry. However, current thinking is that this is impossible, since helium and neon are thought to have almost no propensity to form chemical bonds.

The difficulties faced in forming compounds containing helium and neon atoms derives from their full and compact electronic shells. For example, helium has a full 1s orbital and is therefore resistive to covalent bond formation. It also has the highest first ionization energy of any neutral atom, and so is energetically unwilling to form ionic bonds. These are huge obstacles to any attempt to induce chemistry for helium, and they are largely shared by neon. Nevertheless, encouraging signs are derived from recent work on the chemistry of argon, another of the noble gases. In the past few years it has been shown that argon-containing compounds can be made using chemistry induced in solid argon matrices at very low temperatures. This work was driven initially by purely theoretical predictions but was shown subsequently to be experimentally viable. In particular, the formation of insertion compounds, such as HArF, was achieved using photochemical stimulation of HF in a low-temperature argon matrix. However, these compounds are metastable, i.e. are trapped in a potential energy well which lies above the dissociation limit that would regenerate bare argon atoms. It is therefore possible for these compounds to decompose rapidly and there is not an easy solution to form these compounds.

Here we propose a novel strategy to access this new and profound chemistry for the formation of helium and neon-containing compounds, which will allow the formation of stable neutral helium and neon-containing compounds for the first time. Hence the proposed research is internationally-leading and will deliver a paradigm change in chemistry.
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Organisation Website: http://www.le.ac.uk