The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Faculty Profile

Ziling (Ben) Xue


455 Buehler/Dadney Hall
Knoxville, TN 37996-1600
Lab Address:
454 Buehler Hall
Education & Honors:
B.S., Nanjing University of Pharmacy - Nanjing University (1982)
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles (1989)

Additional Information:
Group Web page

Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
National Science Foundation (NSF) Special Creativity Award
NSF Young Investigator Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar
DuPont Young Professor Ziegler Professor


Our research program is centered on three areas: (1) novel reactivities of metal complexes and chemistry in the formation of advanced materials; (2) development of new chemical analyses; (3) neutron scattering to probe magnetic properties of biomimetic complexes. Both fundamental chemistry and applications are studied. These research projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and NASA.

(1) Probing Novel Reactivities of Metal Complexes and Pathways in the Formation of Advanced Materials
Advanced materials are at the heart of the current very-large-scale-integration (VLSI) devices. Recent developments to make metal oxide gate materials have been called "the most significant change...since Intel pioneered the modern...transistor in 1960s." These metal oxide gate materials are prepared by, e.g., reactions of d0 metal amides M(NR2)n with O2.

We have investigated the mechanistic pathways in the formation of the metal oxide thin films and other microelectronic materials. Reactions of d0 metal complexes with O2 are a new area in inorganic chemistry. Intermediate compounds from the reactions of d0 M(NR2)n with O2 have been isolated and characterized.

In collaboration with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we have been developing new routes for the preparation of rare-earth aluminates as buffer layers for high-temperature superconductors and layered ferroelectrics of the general formula (Sr,Ba)Bi2(Nb,Ta)2O9. These sol-gel routes have produced epitaxial aluminates on SrTiO3 (100) single crystals and highly oriented thin-films over silver and single-crystal SrTiO3 substrates.

(2) Development of New Chemical Analyses
We are developing new methods to analyze chemical and biological species. Novel methods for the analysis of trace chromium in blood and urine have been a focus of our recent work. Chromium, an essential trace element for mammals, has been used as low-cost dietary supplements and in the treatment of diabetes and its complications. Reliable measures for assessing Cr status in humans are limited, largely because levels of biological chromium are very low (e.g., ca. 3-10 ppb Cr in the blood of mammals) and it is bound to peptides. We have developed a novel approach to analyze low-ppb level Cr in blood. It combines a new pretreatment of biological samples with electrochemical measurements. We are conducting studies to optimize the method and to develop methods to analyze chromium in urine.

We have also been developing optical sensors. These sensors are based on spectroscopic changes of indicators immobilized in sol-gel thin films. Unique techniques for making stable thin film coatings have been developed in our laboratory. Sensors for gaseous species are currently being developed in our lab.

(3) Neutron Scattering to Probe Magnetic Properties of Metal Complexes

Neutron scattering, as X-ray scattering, has been widely used to probe properties of solid. One property of neutrons (that photons do not have) is that they have a spin (1/2). Thus, during neutron diffraction, the spin of the neutrons interacts with the spin of unpaired electrons in the complexes, providing a unique tool to probe magnetic properties of the solid. We have used inelastic neutron scattering (INS) to study zero-field splittings (ZFS) in metal complexes, including those of single-molecular magnets and metalloporphyrins (Figure 1). INS is one of few unique techniques to directly give ZFS parameters. The work was in collaboration with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Figure 1. INS spectra of [Mn(TPP)] (Right) and [Mn(TPP)Cl] (Left; TPP2- = tetraphenylporphyrinate).

Biographical Sketch:

Dr. Xue received his B.S. in chemistry from Nanjing University of Pharmacy-Nanjing University in 1982 and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1989. Following postdoctoral research at Indiana University, he joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee in 1992. He has served on the executive committee of the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry.

Representative Publications:

Reactions of d0 Tungsten Alkylidyne Complexes with O2 or H2O. Formation of an Oxo Siloxy Complex through Unusual Silyl Migrations. Morton, L. A.; Miao, M.; Callaway, T. M.; Chen, T.; Chen, S.-J.; Tuinman, A. A.; Yu, X.; Lu, Z.; Xue, Z.-L. Chem. Comm. 2013, 49, 9555-9557.

Reactions of Group 4 Amide Guanidinates with Dioxygen or Water. Studies of the Formation of Oxo Products. Sharma, B.; Callaway, T. M.; Lamb, A. C.; Steren, C. A.; Chen, S.-J.; Xue, Z.-L. Inorg. Chem. 2013, 52, 11409–11421.

A Dye-Doped Optical Sensor for the Detection of Biodiesel in Diesel. Fong, J. K.; Xue, Z.-L. Chem. Comm. 2013, 49, 9015-9017.

Chemical & Engineering News reported the work entitle “Keeping a Watchful Eye on Biodiesel” in its September 16, 2013 issue (Vol. 91, Issue 37, p. 29)

Biodiesel Magazine also reported the work entitled “Tenn. Researchers Develop 5 ppm FAME Detector for Jet Fuel.”

ScienceDaily reported the work entitled “Device to Detect Biodiesel Contamination Developed.”

Reactions of a Tungsten Alkylidyne Complex with Mono-Dentate Phosphines.  Thermodynamic and Theoretical Studies. Chen, P.; Dougan, B. A.; Zhang, X.; Wu, Y.-D.; Xue, Z.-L. Polyhedron 2013, 58, 30-38.

Size-​Controlled Synthesis and Magnetic Properties of Copper Germanate Nanorods. Observation of Size-​Induced Quenching of the Spin-​Peierls Transition. Li, Z.-Q.; Zhang, L.; Song, Y.; Chen, X.-T.; Musfeldt, J. L.; Xue, Z.-L. CrystEngComm 2014, 16, 850-857.

Magnetic Excitations in Metalloporphyrins by Inelastic Neutron Scattering. Determination of Zero-Field Splittings in Iron, Manganese and Chromium Complexes. Hunter, S. C.; Podlesnyak, A. A.; Xue, Z.-L. Inorg. Chem. 2014, 53, 1955–1961.

C-H Bond Activations during and after the Reaction of a Metallacyclic Amide with Silanes. Formation of a m-Alkylidene Hydride Complex, Its H-D Exchanges, and β-H Abstraction by a Hydride Ligand. Wang, L.; Hunter, S. C.; Song, Z.; Steren, C. A.; Chen, T.; Wei, Z.; Cai, H.; Xue, Z.-L. Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 6033–6039.

Fluorescent-Dye Doped Thin-Film Sensors for the Detection of Alcohol Vapors. Fong, J. K.; Dansby-Sparks, R. N.; Lamb, A. C.; Owen, T. W.; Mushfiq, M.; Sampathkumaran, U.; Goswami, K.; Jensen, S. L.; Xue, Z.-L. Am. J. Anal. Chem. 2014, 5, 566-580.

DFT Examination of Rare a-SiMe3 Abstraction in Ta(NMe2)4[N(SiMe3)2]: Formation of the Imide Compound Ta(=NSiMe3)(NMe2)3 and Its Trapping to Give Guanidinate Imides. Richmond, M. G.; Xue, Z.-L. Dalton Trans. 2014, 43, 12390-12395.

Reactions of Zirconium Amide Amidinates with Dioxygen. Observation of an Unusual Peroxo Intermediate in the Formation of Oxo Compounds. Lamb, A. C.; Lu, Z.; Xue, Z.-L. Chem. Comm. 2014, 50, 10517-10520.

Transition Metal Catalyzed Hydroaminoalkylation. He, T.-Q.; Zheng, X.-J..; Cai, H.; Xue, Z.-L. Chin. J. Inorg. Chem. 2014, 30, 53-61.

Synthesis and Structural Characterization of π-​Allylpalladium(II) Complexes with Bis(imidazol-​2-​ylidene)​borate Ligands. Liu, Y.-Z.; Wang, J.; Wang, G.-F.; Chen, L.; Chen, X.-T.; Xue, Z.-L. Polyhedron 201483, 44–49.

Slow Magnetic Relaxation in a Mononuclear Eight-Coordinate Cobalt(II) Complex. Chen, L.; Wang, J.; Wei, J.-M.; Wernsdorfer, W.; Chen, X.-T.; Zhang, Y. Q.; Song, Y.; Xue, Z.-L. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014136, 12213–12216.

Intermolecular Interactions in Solid-State Metalloporphyrins and Their Impacts on Crystal and Molecular Structures. Hunter, S. C.; Smith, B. A.; Hoffmann, C. M. Wang, X.; Chen, Y.-S.; McIntyre, G. J.; Xue, Z.-L. Inorg. Chem. 201453, 11552–11562.

[IrO4]+ at the IX (+9) Oxidation State Observed, Report States. Xue, Z.-L. Sci. China Chem201558, 4-5.

Optical Sensors for the Detection of Trace Chloroform. Fong, J. K.; Pena, J. K.; Xue, Z.-L.; Alam, M. M.; Sampathkumaran, U.; Goswami, K. Anal. Chem. 201587, 1569–1574.


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