Letters to Nature

Nature 406, 874-876 (24 August 2000) | doi:10.1038/35022551; Received 6 April 2000; Accepted 19 June 2000

A stable argon compound

Leonid Khriachtchev, Mika Pettersson, Nino Runeberg, Jan Lundell & Markku Räsänen

  1. Department of Chemistry, PO Box 55 (A.I.Virtasen aukio 1), FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland

Correspondence to: Markku Räsänen Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.R. (e-mail: Email: markku.rasanen@helsinki.fi).

The noble gases have a particularly stable electronic configuration, comprising fully filled s and p valence orbitals. This makes these elements relatively non-reactive, and they exist at room temperature as monatomic gases. Pauling predicted1 in 1933 that the heavier noble gases, whose valence electrons are screened by core electrons and thus less strongly bound, could form stable molecules. This prediction was verified in 1962 by the preparation of xenon hexafluoroplatinate, XePtF6, the first compound to contain a noble-gas atom2, 3. Since then, a range of different compounds containing radon, xenon and krypton have been theoretically anticipated and prepared4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Although the lighter noble gases neon, helium and argon are also expected to be reactive under suitable conditions9, 10, they remain the last three long-lived elements of the periodic table for which no stable compound is known. Here we report that the photolysis of hydrogen fluoride in a solid argon matrix leads to the formation of argon fluorohydride (HArF), which we have identified by probing the shift in the position of vibrational bands on isotopic substitution using infrared spectroscopy. Extensive ab initio calculations indicate that HArF is intrinsically stable, owing to significant ionic and covalent contributions to its bonding, thus confirming computational predictions11, 12, 13 that argon should form a stable hydride species with properties similar to those of the analogous xenon and krypton compounds reported before14, 15, 16, 17, 18.