This paper discusses the synthesis and characterization of a novel compound of nitrogen. The pre-discussion assignment asks students draw a Lewis structure for the N5+ cation, and using the tools of group theory, conduct a normal mode vibrational analysis, comparing the results to the experimental Raman spectral data.
I have used this paper and accompanying discussion assignment as the basis of an in-class literature discussion after we cover the group theory tools for predicting the number of allowed Raman and IR normal modes of vibration for small molecules. Surprisingly, some students had difficulties drawing valid Lewis structures for this cation, typically starting with an incorrect skeletal structure. We talk through the answers to the group theory questions, and this is a good way to expose questions and misunderstandings on how to apply these tools before students work additional problems in a problem set. I also discuss the synthesis briefly with an emphasis on the novelty of this chemistry and challenges in characterizing highly explosive compounds!
Students are assigned a series of questions to allow them to practice using group theory to understand the vibrational spectrum of a molecule and thus guide their reading of the paper prior to class discussion.
The key to success is drawing the correct Lewis structure to predict the correct shape of the molecule.