What happens to a compound when one of its atoms changes via spontaneous nuclear reaction to an atom with very different bonding? For example, beryllium-7 turns into lithium-7 with a half-life of 53 days. After 53 days half the divalent Beryllium in a crystal of BeF2 would be monovalent Lithium ions. Half of the flourine atome formerly bonded to the former Beryllium atoms would be "floating free", not something Fluorine is wont to do. What would actually happen? Would there be a fluorine ion trapped in the crystal? A flourine atom? Some kind of radical?

Plainly energies available from the nuclear reaction are orders of magnitude larger than anything that would ever be available in chemical bond energies, so even crazy unstable species have plenty of energy to form.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good question, this idea has bothered me for years. Still nobody ever answered it definitely. $\endgroup$
    – AChem
    Mar 22, 2019 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ Defects in crystals are quite well known. ‘Incredibly unstable’ isn’t quite what happens. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 22, 2019 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ An extra unbonded fluorine in the middle of the crystal is actually pretty stable, much like a serial killer in a high-security prison cell. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2019 at 4:54
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    $\begingroup$ @IvanNeretin - not quite the analogy that I would have used, but yes it quite likely finds a nice interstitial position. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 22, 2019 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Chalo there is a brief discussion about this effect for Einsteinium compounds in section 12.6 here $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    Mar 22, 2019 at 15:16


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