Here's an update on my "Catfishing" post from a couple of days ago. I set up around thirty small reactions, with a different potential catalyst in each, looking for something to happen. They sat at room temperature over the weekend, looking very picturesque - with all the transition metals, I had various shades of yellow, red, orange, blue and green scattered around the array.
This excursion has added to my life list of elements used, that's for sure. I'm not sure if I ever would have a chance to use some of these things if it weren't for expeditions like this. Unfortunately, the exotica that I mentioned in the first post has failed to do very much. The vials with things like zirconium, ytterbium or praseodymium salts are just sitting there, as are the fancy iridiums. The coppers have copped out, and a range of rhodiums and rheniums are laughing at me.
The only vials that are showing real changes are the ones with palladium catalysts. That's not too surprising, because Pd is a real workhorse in the catalyst world, for good reason. But I don't think that they're doing what I want. Rather, they seem to be tearing up one of my starting materials and rearranging it into interestingly useless structures, which then find their own list of things to decompose into.
I have another collection of catalysts to try, though, and I'll run those before declaring defeat. I'm going to send a bunch of nickel, iron, and cobalt compounds in to see if they can accomplish anything. If nothing else, they're sure to be decorative. On the other hand, the palladium reactions all look like hot chocolate, which is rarely a good sign.
The first time I tried doing an experiment like this was back in graduate school - I remember going through the labs looking for every Lewis acid that we had in the place. (To a good extent, those reagents parallel Tolstoy's quote from Anna Karenina, in that protic acids are all alike, but every Lewis acid is an acid in its own way). I set those up in vials, too, in a rather more low-tech manner, as befits early-1980s equipment. And here it is, twenty years later, and I'm doing the same thing. It's still fun.