Letter | Published:

A series of energetic metal pentazolate hydrates

Nature volume 549, pages 7881 (07 September 2017) | Download Citation

This article has been updated


Singly or doubly bonded polynitrogen compounds can decompose to dinitrogen (N2) with an extremely large energy release. This makes them attractive as potential explosives or propellants1,2,3, but also challenging to produce in a stable form. Polynitrogen materials containing nitrogen as the only element exist in the form of high-pressure polymeric phases4,5,6, but under ambient conditions even metastability is realized only in the presence of other elements that provide stabilization. An early example is the molecule phenylpentazole, with a five-membered all-nitrogen ring, which was first reported in the 1900s7 and characterized in the 1950s8,9. Salts containing the azide anion (N3)10,11,12 or pentazenium cation (N5+)13 are also known, with compounds containing the pentazole anion, cyclo-N5, a more recent addition14,15,16. Very recently, a bulk material containing this species was reported17 and then used to prepare the first example of a solid-state metal–N5 complex18. Here we report the synthesis and characterization of five metal pentazolate hydrate complexes [Na(H2O)(N5)]·2H2O, [M(H2O)4(N5)2]·4H2O (M = Mn, Fe and Co) and [Mg(H2O)6(N5)2]·4H2O that, with the exception of the Co complex, exhibit good thermal stability with onset decomposition temperatures greater than 100 °C. For this series we find that the N5 ion can coordinate to the metal cation through either ionic or covalent interactions, and is stabilized through hydrogen-bonding interactions with water. Given their energetic properties and stability, pentazole–metal complexes might potentially serve as a new class of high-energy density materials19 or enable the development of such materials containing only nitrogen20,21,22,23. We also anticipate that the adaptability of the N5 ion in terms of its bonding interactions will enable the exploration of inorganic nitrogen analogues of metallocenes24 and other unusual polynitrogen complexes.

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Change history

  • 23 May 2018

    In this Letter, under Methods subsection '[Na(H2O)(N5)]·2H2O (2)', the description "the intermediate product arylpentazole (5.000 g, 26.18 mmol)" should read "the intermediate product sodium salt of arylpentazole (5.000 g, 21.64 mmol)". In the legend of Fig. 3, we add that "All temperature points in the stability study were onset temperatures." to avoid misunderstanding. These corrections have been made online.


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This work was supported by the NSAF (U1530101) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51374131). We thank C. Zhang and B. Hu for co-exploring the rupture of C–N bonds in phenylpentazole at the beginning of the project, Z. Zhang for analysis of the crystal structures, L. Lu for analysis of Raman and NMR spectra, and L. Cheng for DSC measurements of decomposition kinetics.

Author information

Author notes

    • Yuangang Xu
    •  & Qian Wang

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. School of Chemical Engineering, Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing 210094, Jiangsu, China

    • Yuangang Xu
    • , Qian Wang
    • , Cheng Shen
    • , Qiuhan Lin
    • , Pengcheng Wang
    •  & Ming Lu


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Y.X., P.W. and M.L. conceived and designed the experiments. C.S. and Q.L. prepared N5 solid. Y.X. and Q.W. performed the crystal experiments. Y.X., Q.W. and P.W. performed the measurements and analysed the data. P.W. performed the DFT calculations. Y.X., P.W. and M.L. co-wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the overall scientific interpretation and edited the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Pengcheng Wang or Ming Lu.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks K. O. Christe, T. M. Klapötke and H. Östmark for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Tables

    This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-4.

Crystallographic information files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains crystallographic data for [Na(H2O)(N5)]•2H2O.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains crystallographic data for [Mn(H2O)4(N5)2]•4H2O.

  3. 3.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains crystallographic data for [Fe(H2O)4(N5)2]•4H2O.

  4. 4.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains crystallographic data for [Co(H2O)4(N5)2]•4H2O.

  5. 5.

    Supplementary Data

    This file contains crystallographic data for [Mg(H2O)6(N5)2]•4H2O.

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