The complex consists of two "pentammine" (ammonia in metal complexes is referred to as ammine) ruthenium units linked to the nitrogen atoms in a bridging pyrazine ligand, which completes the octahedral coordination sphere of each metal. The important feature of the compound is that the two metals have apparent fractional oxidation states of 2.5+. Normally metal ions, like most ions, have integral oxidation states. For example, ruthenium ammines are typically 2+ or 3+. The fact that the oxidation states are half-integral indicates that the two Ru(NH3)5 centers are equivalent in terms of their number of electrons. Crystallographic and theoretical studies are consistent with this description, i.e. the two metals are equivalent. Characteristic of a mixed valence complex, this ion strongly absorbs light in the near-Infra-red part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the case of the Creutz-Taube ion, the absorption maximum occurs at 1570 nm. This absorption is described as an intervalence charge-transfer band.
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