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Suboxides are a class of oxides wherein the electropositive element is in excess relative to the “normal” oxides.[1] When the electropositive element is a metal, the compounds are sometimes referred to as “metal-rich”. Thus the normal oxide of caesium is Cs2O, which is described as a Cs+ salt of O2−. A suboxide of caesium is Cs11O3, where the charge on Cs is clearly less than 1+, but the oxide is still described as O2−. Suboxides typically feature extensive bonding between the electropositive element, often leading to clusters.

Examples of suboxides include

Metal-containing suboxides[edit]

Suboxides are intermediates along the pathway that forms the normal oxide. Suboxides are sometimes visible when certain metals are exposed to small amounts of O2:

22 Cs + 3 O2 → 2 Cs11O3
4 Cs11O3 + 5 O2 → 22 Cs2O

Several suboxides of caesium and rubidium have been characterized by X-ray crystallography. As of 1997, the inventory includes the following Rb9O2, Rb6O, Cs11O3, Cs4O, Cs7O, Cs11O3Rb, Cs11O3Rb2, and Cs11O3Rb3.[1]

Suboxides are generally colored compounds indicating a degree of electron delocalisation. Cs7O has a unit cell containing a Cs11O3 cluster and 10 Cs atoms. The cluster can be visualised as being composed of three face-sharing octahedra. In the picture below the caesium atoms are purple and the oxygen atoms are red. The Cs-Cs distance in the cluster is 376 pm, which is less than the Cs-Cs distance in the metal of 576 pm. Rb9O2 and Rb6O both contain the Rb9O2 cluster, which can be visualised as two face-sharing octahedra. Rb6O can be formulated as (Rb9O2)Rb3. The Rb-Rb distance in the cluster is 352 pm which is shorter than the Rb-Rb in the metal of 485 pm. It is suggested that caesium suboxides play a role in the Ag-O-Cs (S1) and multialkali Na-K-Sb-Cs photocathodes.[3]

Rb9O2 cluster Cs11O3 cluster
Rb9O2 cluster Cs11O3 cluster

Carbon suboxide[edit]

The suboxide of carbon adopts an unremarkable structure. As for related organic cumulenes (e.g. ketene), C3O2 obeys the octet rule.

Titanium monoxide[edit]

Titanium monoxide (TiO) structures exist as magneli phases. One of the method to prepare this phase is a hydrothermal oxidation of pure metallic titanium precursor.[2]

Related compounds[edit]

Subnitrides are also known. For example, Na16Ba6N features a nitride-centered octahedral cluster of six barium atoms embedded in a matrix of sodium.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Simon, A. ”Group 1 and 2 Suboxides and Subnitrides — Metals with Atomic Size Holes and Tunnels” Coordination Chemistry Reviews 1997, volume 163, Pages 253–270.doi:10.1016/S0010-8545(97)00013-1
  2. ^ a b Jagminas, Arūnas; Ramanavičius, Simonas; Jasulaitiene, Vitalija; Šimėnas, Mantas (2019). "Hydrothermal synthesis and characterization of nanostructured titanium monoxide films". RSC Advances. 9 (69): 40727–40735. doi:10.1039/C9RA08463K. ISSN 2046-2069.
  3. ^ Oxides: solid state chemistry, WH McCarrroll Encyclopedia of Inorganic chemistry. Editor R Bruce King, John Wiley and Sons. (1994) ISBN 0-471-93620-0