In halides, berkelium assumes the oxidation states +3 and +4. The +3 state is the most stable, especially in solutions, while the tetravalent halides BkF4 and Cs2BkCl6 are only known in the solid phase. The coordination of berkelium atom in its trivalent fluoride and chloride is tricapped trigonal prismatic, with the coordination number of 9. In trivalent bromide, it is bicapped trigonal prismatic (coordination 8) or octahedral (coordination 6), and in the iodide it is octahedral.
Berkelium(IV) fluoride (BkF4) is a yellow-green ionic solid and is isotypic with uranium tetrafluoride or zirconium(IV) fluoride. Berkelium(III) fluoride (BkF3) is also a yellow-green solid, but it has two crystalline structures. The most stable phase at low temperatures is isotypic with yttrium(III) fluoride, while upon heating to between 350 and 600 °C, it transforms to the structure found in lanthanum(III) fluoride.
Visible amounts of berkelium(III) chloride (BkCl3) were first isolated and characterized in 1962, and weighed only 3 billionths of a gram. It can be prepared by introducing hydrogen chloride vapors into an evacuated quartz tube containing berkelium oxide at a temperature about 500 °C. This green solid has a melting point of 600 °C, and is isotypic with uranium(III) chloride. Upon heating to nearly melting point, BkCl3 converts into an orthorhombic phase.
Two forms of berkelium(III) bromide are known: one with berkelium having coordination 6, and one with coordination 8. The latter is less stable and transforms to the former phase upon heating to about 350 °C. An important phenomenon for radioactive solids has been studied on these two crystal forms: the structure of fresh and aged 249BkBr3 samples was probed by X-ray diffraction over a period longer than 3 years, so that various fractions of berkelium-249 had beta decayed to californium-249. No change in structure was observed upon the 249BkBr3—249CfBr3 transformation. However, other differences were noted for 249BkBr3 and 249CfBr3. For example, the latter could be reduced with hydrogen to 249CfBr2, but the former could not – this result was reproduced on individual 249BkBr3 and 249CfBr3 samples, as well on the samples containing both bromides. The intergrowth of californium in berkelium occurs at a rate of 0.22% per day and is an intrinsic obstacle in studying berkelium properties. Beside a chemical contamination, 249Cf, being an alpha emitter, brings undesirable self-damage of the crystal lattice and the resulting self-heating. The chemical effect however can be avoided by performing measurements as a function of time and extrapolating the obtained results.
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