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The phosphotungstate anion, an example of a polyoxometalate

In chemistry, a polyoxometalate (abbreviated POM) is a polyatomic ion, usually an anion, that consists of three or more transition metal oxyanions linked together by shared oxygen atoms to form a large, closed 3-dimensional framework.

The metal atoms are usually group 5 or group 6 transition metals in their high oxidation states. In this state, their electron configuration is d0 or d1. Examples include vanadium(V), niobium(V), tantalum(V), molybdenum(VI), and tungsten(VI).

The framework of transition metal oxyanions may enclose one or more hetero atoms such as phosphorus or silicon, themselves sharing neighbouring oxygen atoms with the framework. For example, the phosphotungstate anion [PW12O40]3− consists of a framework of twelve octahedral tungsten oxyanions surrounding a central phosphate group.


The first example of a polyoxometalate compound was ammonium phosphomolybdate, containing the [PMo12O40]3− anion, discovered in 1826.[1] This anion has the same structure as the phosphotungstate anion, whose structure was determined in 1934. This structure is called the Keggin structure after its discoverer.[2]

Following this discovery, other fundamental structures such as the Wells-Dawson ion were found, and their chemistry and applications as catalysts were determined.

Recent new developments include the discovery of large, highly symmetric polyoxomolybdates such as the wheel-shaped molybdenum blue anions and spherical keplerates, numerous hybrid organic/inorganic materials that contain POM cores,[3][4] new potential applications based on unusual magnetic[5] and optical[6] properties of some POMs, and potential medical applications such anti-tumor and anti-viral uses.


Some structural types are found in many different compounds. The first known example of this was the Keggin ion, whose structure was found to be common to both molybdates and tungstates with different central hetero atoms. Examples of some fundamental polyoxometalate structures are shown below. The Lindqvist ion is an iso-polyoxometalate, the other three are hetero-polyoxometalates. The Keggin and Dawson structures have tetrahedrally coordinated hetero-atoms, such as P or Si, and the Anderson structure has an octahedral central atom, such as aluminium.

Hexamolybdate Decavanadate anion Dodecatungstate Large isopolymolybdate
Lindqvist hexamolybdate, Mo6O192− Decavanadate, V10O286− Paratungstate B, H2M12O4210− Mo36-polymolybdate, Mo36O112(H2O)168−
Hexamolybdate Structure of the phosphotungstate anion Dawson ion
Strandberg structure, HP2Mo5O234− Keggin structure, XM12O40n− Dawson structure, X2M18O62n−
Anderson ion Allman-Waugh ion Weakley-Yamase polyoxometalate Dexter-Silverton polyoxometalate
Anderson structure, XM6O24n− Allman-Waugh structure, XM9O32n− Weakley-Yamase structure, XM10O36n− Dexter-Silverton structure, XM12O42n−


The metal atoms that make up the framework, called addenda atoms, are typically molybdenum, tungsten, and vanadium. When more than one element is present the cluster is called a mixed addenda cluster.

The ligands coordinated to metal atoms that together form the bridged framework are usually oxide ions, but other elements, such as S and Br may be substituted for some of the oxide ions.[1][7] A sulfur-substituted POM is called a polyoxothiometalate. Other ligands replacing the oxide ions have also been attested, such as nitrosyl and alkoxy groups.[8][9]

The typical framework building blocks are polyhedral units, with 4, 5, 6 or 7 coordinate metal centres. These units share edges and/or vertices, or, less commonly, faces (such as in the ion CeMo12O428−, which has face-shared octahedra with Mo atoms at the vertices of an icosahedron[10]).

The most common unit for polymolybdates is the octahedral MoO6 unit, often distorted by the Mo atom being off-centre to give one shorter Mo-O bond. Some polymolybdates contain pentagonal bipyramidal units; these are the key building blocks in the molybdenum blues.

Hetero atoms[edit]

H4V18O42 cage containing a Cl ion

Hetero atoms are present in many polyoxometalates. Many different elements can act as hetero atoms, with various coordination numbers:

  • 4-coordinate (tetrahedral) in Keggin, Dawson and Lindqvist structures (e. g., PO4, SiO4, AsO4)
  • 6-coordinate (octahedral) in Anderson structure (e. g., Al(OH)6, TeO6)
  • 8-coordinate (square antiprism) in ((CeO8)W10O28)8−
  • 12-coordinate (icosahedral) in (UO12)Mo12O30 8−

The hetero atom may be located in the centre of the anion, such as in the Keggin structure, or in the center of a structural fragment, such as the two phosphorus atoms in the Dawson ion, which are central to its two symmetric fragments.

Polyoxometalates bear similarities to clathrate structures. The Keggin ion, for example, can be formulated as PO3−
, and the Dawson as (XO2−
.[citation needed] The @ notation denotes the physical enclosure of the left-hand side in the right-hand side.

Some cage structures that contain other ions are known. For example, the vanadate cage V18O42 can enclose a Cl ion.[11] This structure has 5-coordinate, square pyramidal vanadium units linked together.


Structural isomerism is common in POMs. For example, the Keggin structure has 5 isomers, which are obtained by (conceptually) rotating one or more of the four M3O13 units through 60°.

α-XM12O40n− β-XM12O40n− γ-XM12O40n− δ-XM12O40n− ε-XM12O40n−
alpha isomer beta isomer gamma isomer delta isomer epsilon isomer

The five isomers of Keggin structure.

Lacunary structures[edit]

The structure of some POMs are derived from a larger POM's structure by removing one or more addenda atoms and their attendant oxide ions, giving a defective structure called a lacunary structure. An example of a compound with a Dawson lacunary structure is As2W15O56.[12]

Polyoxometalates outside Group 5 and 6 metals[edit]

Polyoxometalates with addenda atoms outside Group 5 and 6 transition metals are known. Examples include the dodecatitanates Ti12O16(OPri)16 (where OPri stands for an alkoxy group),[13] the iron oxoalkoxometalates[14] and iron keggin ion.[15] These structures are also categorised as POMs,[9] and are known as polyoxoalkoxometalates due to the presence of the alkoxy groups.

Properties and applications[edit]

The huge range of size, structure and elemental composition of known polyoxometalates leads to a wide range of different properties.

The Keggin ions are well-known to be thermally stable and reversibly reduced by accepting electrons. This makes them useful as catalysts for a range of organic reactions.

Some POMs exhibit luminescence.[16][17]

There have been reports on the role of weak- or non-bonding interactions on the crystal engineering of hybrid polyoxometalates.[18][19]

Spherical nanoporous polyoxomolybdate-based capsules of different types containing more than 100 metal atoms reported by Achim Müller and his group have versatile unique properties regarding their assembly into vesicles and the chemistry which can be done inside the pores and cavities.[1] A discrete polyoxometalate Lindqvist ion of the form W6O192− was successfully imaged recently for the first time within the capillary of a carbon nanotube following steric locking of the anion with the tubule. In situ relaxation of the anion in its equatorial plane was demonstrated.[20]

Some structures containing transition metal atoms with unpaired electrons have unusual magnetic properties[21] and are being investigated as possible nanocomputer storage devices (see qubits).[22]

Some potential "green" applications have been reported, such as a non-chlorine based, wood pulp bleaching process,[23] a method of decontaminating water.[24] and a method to catalytically produce formic acid from biomass (OxFA process).[25]

Polyoxometalates can be reduced by electrons from conduction band of wide-band-gap semiconductors, which expands applications of polyoxometalates into energy storage and conversions.[26]

Many potential medicinal applications have been reported, such as anti-tumoral and anti-viral applications.[27]

Recently, in what is considered a breakthrough in computing hardware, a team of scientists from Glasgow has proposed a way to harvest Polyoxometalate molecules and construct nano-sized non-volatile (permanent) storage devices, also known as flash memory devices.[28]


  1. ^ a b c From Scheele and Berzelius to Müller: polyoxometalates (POMs) revisited and the "missing link" between the bottom up and top down approaches P. Gouzerh, M. Che; L’Actualité Chimique, 2006, 298, 9
  2. ^ The Structure and Formula of 12-Phosphotungstic Acid J.F. Keggin. Proc. Roy. Soc., A, 144, 851, 75-100 (1934) doi:10.1098/rspa.1934.0035
  3. ^ Y.-F. Song, D.-L. Long, and L. Cronin, Non covalently connected frameworks with nanoscale channels assembled from a tethered polyoxometalate- pyrene hybrid, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2007, 46, 3900-3904 doi:10.1002/anie.200604734.
  4. ^ A novel 3D organic–inorganic hybrid based on sandwich-type cadmium hetereopolymolybdate: [Cd4(H2O)2(2,2′-bpy)2] Cd[Mo6O12(OH)3(PO4)2(HPO4)2]2 [Mo2O4(2,2′-bpy)2]2·3H2O, Hong-Xu Guo and Shi-Xiong Liu Inorganic Chemistry Communications 7, 11, (2004), 1217 doi:10.1016/j.inoche.2004.09.010
  5. ^ Classical and Quantum Magnetism in Giant Keplerate Magnetic Molecules Achim Müller, Marshall Luban, Robert Modler, Paul Kögerler, Maria Axenovich, Jürgen Schnack, Paul Canfield, Sergey Bud'ko, Neil Harrison. ChemPhysChem 2001, 2, 517.
  6. ^ Field-dependent magnetic parameters in Ni4Mo12: Magnetostriction at the molecular level? Jürgen Schnack, Mirko Brüger, Marshall Luban, Paul Kögerler, Emilia Morosan, Ronald Fuchs, Robert Modler, Hiroyuki Nojiri, Ram C. Rai, Jinbo Cao, Janice L. Musfeldt, Xing Wei. Phys. Rev. B 2006, 73, 094401.
  7. ^ Direct Bromination of Keggin Fragments To Give [PW9O28Br6]3−: A Polyoxotungstate with a Hexabrominated Face R. John Errington, Richard L. Wingad, William Clegg, Mark R. J. Elsegood Angewandte Chemie 39, 21 ,3884 – 3886 doi:10.1002/1521-3773(20001103)39:21<3884::AID-ANIE3884>3.0.CO;2-M
  8. ^ Functionalization of polyoxomolybdates: the example of nitrosyl derivatives P. Gouzerh, Y. Jeannin, A. Proust, F. Robert and S. G. Roh Molecular Engineering 3, (1993) 79 doi:10.1007/BF00999625
  9. ^ a b Polyoxometalates: From Platonic Solids to Anti-Retroviral Activity By Michael Thor Pope, Achim Müller Springer (1994) ISBN 0-7923-2421-8
  10. ^ A New Structural Type for Heteropoly Anions. The Crystal Structure of (NH4)2H6(CeMo12O42)12H2O DD Dexter, JV Silverton - Journal of the American Chemical Society, 1968, 3589
  11. ^ Supramolecular Inorganic Chemistry: Small Guests in Small and Large Hosts A. Müller, H. Reuter, S. Dillinger. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 1995, 34, 2328.
  12. ^ Manganous heteropolytungstates. Synthesis and heteroatom effects in Wells–Dawson-derived sandwich complexes I.M. Mbomekalle, B. Keita, L. Nadjo, P. Berthet, W. A. Neiwert, C.L. Hill, M.D. Ritorto and T. M. Anderson, Dalton Trans., 2003, 2646 - 2650, doi:10.1039/b304255c
  13. ^ Dodecatitanates: a new family of stable polyoxotitanates V. W. Day, T. A. Eberspacher, W. G. Klemperer, and C. W. Park J. Am. Chem. Soc.; 1993; 115(18) pp 8469 - 8470; doi:10.1021/ja00071a075
  14. ^ Synthesis and Structure of [Fe13O4F24(OMe)12]5−: The First Open-Shell Keggin Ion Avi Bino, Michael Ardon, Dongwhan Lee, Bernhard Spingler, and Stephen J. Lippard J. Am. Chem. Soc., 124 (17), 4578 -4579, 2002doi:10.1021/ja025590a
  15. ^ Aqueous formation and manipulation of the iron-oxo Keggin ion Omid Sadeghi, Lev N. Zakharov and May Nyman, Science; 2015; 347 (6228) pp 1359 - 1362; doi:10.1126/science.aaa4620
  16. ^ Regular Two-Dimensional Molecular Array of Photoluminescent Anderson-type Polyoxometalate Constructed by Langmuir-Blodgett Technique Takeru Ito, Hisashi Yashiro, Toshihiro Yamase, Langmuir, 22 (6), 2806 -2810, (2006) doi:10.1021/la052972w S0743-7463(05)02972-0
  17. ^ Synthesis and Crystal Structure of New Lacunary Wells–Dawson with an Unprecedented Eu-Substituted Sandwiched Cluster J Kafawein, HK Juwhari, Murad AlDamen, Journal of cluster science, (2015) doi:10.1007/s10876-015-0867-9
  18. ^ Role of H-Bonded Interactions in the Crystal Packing of Phenylenediammonium Phosphomolybdates Shailesh Upreti and Arunachalam Ramanan, Crystal Growth & Design, 2006, 6(9), 2066-2071 doi:10.1021/cg0601610
  19. ^ Structure-Directing Role of Hydrogen-Bonded Dimers of Phenylenediammonium Cations: Supramolecular Assemblies of Octamolybdate-Based Organic-Inorganic Hybrids, Shailesh Upreti and Arunachalam Ramanan, Crystal Growth & Design, 2005, 5(5), 1837–1843 doi:10.1021/cg050100m
  20. ^ Direct Imaging of the Structure, Relaxation, and Sterically Constrained Motion of Encapsulated Tungsten Polyoxometalate Lindqvist Ions within Carbon Nanotubes, Jeremy Sloan, Gemma Matthewman, Clare Dyer-Smith, A-Young Sung, Zheng Liu, Kazu Suenaga, Angus I. Kirkland, and Emmanuel Flahaut, ACS Nano, 2(5), 966–976, 2008. doi:10.1021/nn7002508
  21. ^ Polyoxovanadates: High-Nuclearity Spin Clusters with Interesting Host-Guest Systems and Different Electron Populations. Synthesis, Spin Organization, Magnetochemistry, and Spectroscopic Studies A Müller, R Sessoli,E Krickemeyer, H Bögge, J Meyer, D Gatteschi, L Pardi, J Westphal, K Hovemeier, R Rohlfing, J Döring, F Hellweg, C Beugholt and M Schmidtmann Inorg. Chem., 36 (23), 5239 -5250, 1997.
  22. ^ Spin qubits with electrically gated polyoxometalate molecule J. Lehmann, A. Gaita-Ariño, E. Coronado, D. Loss Nature Nanotechnology 2, 312 - 317 (2007) doi:10.1038/nnano.2007.110
  23. ^ Alternatives for lignocellulosic pulp delignification using polyoxometalates and oxygen: a review A. R. Gaspar, J. A. F. Gamelas, D. V. Evtuguin and C P Neto Green Chem., 2007, 9, 717 - 730, doi:10.1039/b607824a
  24. ^ Polyoxometallate photocatalysis for decontaminating the aquatic environment from organic and inorganic pollutants A. Hiskia, A.Troupis, S. Antonaraki, E. Gkika, P. Kormali, E. Papaconstantinou, International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry, 86, Issue 3 & 4 (2006), 233, doi:10.1080/03067310500247520
  25. ^ R. Wölfel, N. Taccardi, A. Bösmann, P. Wasserscheid (2011). "Selective catalytic conversion of biobased carbohydrates to formic acid using molecular oxygen". Green Chem. (13): 2759. doi:10.1039/C1GC15434F. 
  26. ^ Investigation of the photocatalytic activity of TiO2–polyoxometalate systems for the oxidation of methanol Chaokang Gu, Curtis Shannon Journal of Molecular Catalysis A: Chemical, 262 (1-2), 185–189, 2007. doi:10.1016/j.molcata.2006.08.029
  27. ^ Polyoxometalates in Medicine Jeffrey T. Rhule, Craig L. Hill, and Deborah A. Judd Chem. Rev., 98 (1), 327 -358, 1998.
  28. ^ Flash memory breaches nanoscales http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/flash-memory-breaches-nanoscales/article6615239.ece

Further reading[edit]

  • D. L. Long, E. Burkholder, and L. Cronin, 'Polyoxometalate clusters, nanostructures and materials: From self-assembly to designer materials and devices', Chem. Soc. Rev., 2007, 36, 105-121. doi:10.1039/b502666k [1]
  • M.T. Pope "Heteropoly and Isopoly Oxometalates", Springer Verlag, New York, (1983).
  • M.T. Pope, A. Müller, Polyoxometalate Chemistry: An Old Field with New Dimensions in Several Disciplines, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 1991, 30, 34.
  • Special volume on "Polyoxometalates", Chem.Rev.,1998, 98, 1