17 Feb 2008

Tetrahedral Tellurate

Literature Discussion

Submitted by Maggie Geselbracht, Reed College

This communication describes the first example of a discrete tetrahedral tellurate ion, analogous to sulfate and selenate.  This assignment was used as an introduction to the inorganic literature early in the semester.  Pre-discussion questions were adapted from the "How to Read an Inorganic Paper" learning object by Hilary Eppley.  In class discussion focused on communications vs. full papers, the essentials of X-ray crystallographic information, multinuclear NMR, and the periodic trends discussed in this paper.


A key for this Discussion handout was written John DiMeglio, University of Michigan, James Dunne, Central College, Amanda Grass, Wayne State University, Vince Hradil, Concordia University Chicago, Pavithra H. A. Kankanamalage, Wayne State University, Jocelyn Pineda Lanorio, Illinois College, Cassie Lilly, Meredith College, Sarah Shaner, Southeast Missouri State, Sunshine Silver, North Park University, Douglas Vander Griend, Calvin College, Andrea Wallace, College of Coastal Georgia, Meng Zhou, Lawrence Technological University as part of the 2018 VIPEr Summer Workshop in Dearborn, MI.

Learning Goals: 



A successful student will be able to:

  1. Identify the key aspects of a primary publication including significance, synthetic methods, and product characterization. (Qs 1, 3, 4, 5)

  2. Identify experimental protocols and reaction conditions. (Q 5)

  3. Predict/infer the product(s) and by-products of a chemical reaction. (Q 3)

  4. Predict the product(s) and by-products of a chemical reaction. (Q 3 and 4)

Implementation Notes: 

Several days before the conference (discussion section) met, students were provided a link to the paper and given the pre-discussion questions to answer before coming to class.  The class discussion lasted for 50 minutes, serving as an introduction to the section in the syllabus on molecular structure (main group chemistry), symmetry, and multinuclear NMR.  In addition to the discussion questions (Word doc), I have also attached a zipped Crystal Maker input file to show students the structure.  A free demo version of the software is available to download.

Time Required: 
50 minutes
Evaluation Methods: 

Students should bring the handout to class, having read the paper, and having attempted to answer all the questions.  These handouts should be corrected and expanded through in class discussion.

Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence


This is an absolutely outstanding paper to do early in the semester! This paper is very short, highly accessible, and there are numerous connections that can be made with general chemistry.


I had my Inorganic Chemistry II students read this paper for the fourth day of class. I gave them a very slightly modified version of Maggie’s reading questions. (We don’t have conference or use Moodle.) I timed this paper to coincide with the presence of a seminar visitor – Steve Keller of the University of Missouri - who agreed to help lead the class discussion.


In class, we covered a variety of topics including (1) what is the best way to draw the Lewis structure – using single or double bonds between Se and O – and what do the different structures imply; (2) Shannon-Prewitt radii; (3) electronegativity and its effect on acid-base chemistry; (4) writing detailed mechanisms for reactions and arrow pushing; and (5) whether the reaction is enthalphy (bond analysis of the solution and crystallized product) or entropy driven (look at crystallization temperatures).


If I had more time, I would have liked to focus a bit more on the crystal structure to introduce students to  (1) crystal structure viewing programs; (2) cif files; (3) the meaning of thermal ellipsoids; and (4) solvent disorder. I want to get them more familiar with looking at crystal structures. I would have also liked to have a discussion on what sorts of experiments the students think the authors should have done to better characterize the product before crystallization.


The students thought that the paper was very accessible; there were no complaints about this assignment being too hard. I think the students were pleasantly surprised with the ease with which this paper could be read. Twelve of my fourteen students turned in answers to the questions. Two terms that most students didn’t know were deliquescent and congeneric. There were also some questions about abbreviations for chemical names and terms related to crystallography (-43m, ellipsoids, Mo K(alpha) radiation. Several of my students commented that the discussion about bonding (ionic-covalent continuum, electron delocalization and bonds that aren’t quite a full single bond) was mind blowing. (I think this discussion will be a great setup for MO Theory.)


The next time I do this, I think I will more explicitly state that students should break each of the reaction steps into a single reaction as well as suggest that they write the reactions in a normal – just formula – way AND with a structural formula that shows arrow pushing between steps. I also might use this the second day of class as a way to review general (and fundamental inorganic) chemistry.


I have a great idea for an exam question based on the graphical abstract of the paper. I will post that after I give (and write) the first exam.



A key and Learning Goals for this LO were added as part of the 2018 VIPEr summer workshop in Dearborn, MI.

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