Courtesy Faculty Member

Gilbert 316 and 302


B.S. (Chemistry) University of Nebraska, 1969

Ph. D. (Chemistry) University of Michigan, 1976


After two years’ service in U.S. Army (1969-71, discharge rank of Captain), I earned the Ph. D. at the University of Michigan with Professor Edgar F. Westrum, Jr. in the field of low-temperature thermodynamic properties of inorganic materials.  Then began my career as an industrial research chemist, first at Monsanto Company, St. Louis, MO for five years, then for 32 years in Albany, OR at Wah Chang (now ATI Millersburg Operations).  At the former, my primary interest area was synthesis of metal oxide catalysts for petrochemical processes.  

At the latter, I conducted research in support of manufacture of inorganic materials, including the metals Ti, Zr, Hf, Nb, as well as oxide and halide derivatives thereof.  This career left me with a strong interest in converting chemical reactions into practical industrial processes and materials, with attention to cost, safety and environmental factors that are required in that context.

I retired in 2013 and accepted appointment as Courtesy Faculty Member in the Chemistry Department, Oregon State University.  I am involved in collaboration with the research groups of Professors Keszler, Nyman and Dolgos.  When not thinking about chemistry, my hobby diversion is mathematics, primarily ruler-and-compass constructions of Euclidean geometry.

Research Interests

Synthesis and characterization of inorganic materials, with special attention to zirconium and hafnium.  In particular, have recently found a new structural motif in zirconium and hafnium chemistry:


 It is a tetrahedron of Zr(Hf) atoms with four types of oxygen atoms: bridging hydroxo (green), peroxo (blue), aqua (red) and oxo (yellow) ligands.


It is a tetrahedron of Zr(Hf) atoms with four types of oxygen atoms: bridging hydroxo (green), peroxo (blue), aqua (red) and oxo (yellow)ligands.

I have also made a reasonably thorough investigation of the long-known but little-studied  halogenide glasses of Zr and Hf.

I continue to work with peroxo derivatives of Zr, Hf perchlorate and nitrate salts.  I and collaborators are using  xray diffraction, SAXS, ESI-MS, Raman spectroscopy and classical physical methods.

This research has resulted in the following:

James A. Sommers, Jenn Amador, Eaton C. Fong, Douglas A. Keszler, “Glass Formation in Basic Halogenides of Zirconium and Hafnium, Poster at American Chemical Society Annual Meeting, San Francisco, Apr. 4, 2017.

James A. Sommers, Wesley Surta, Lauren B. Fullmer, Danielle Hutchison, Jenn Amador, May Nyman, Michelle Dolgos, Douglas Keszler, “Glassy Compounds of Zirconium and Hafnium, American Chemical Society NORM2017 Meeting, Corvallis, OR, June 26, 2017.

James A. Sommers, Jenn M. Amador, Lauren B. Fullmer,  Danielle C. Hutchison, T. Wesley Surta, May D. Nyman, Michelle R. Dolgos, Douglas A. Keszler , “Three Phases of Zirconium and Hafnium Halogenides”, Manuscript in preparation.     

James A. Sommers, Danielle C. Hutchison, Jenn M. Amador, Douglas A. Keszler, May D. Nyman, “Bending and Breaking the Clearfield-Vaughan Tetramer: Zirconium and Hafnium peroxo perchlorates”, Manuscript in preparation.

Representative Publications

Work in Research Group of Professor Edgar F. Westrum, Jr., University of Michigan

  1. E. F. Westrum, Jr., J. A. Sommers, D. B. Downie, F Grønvold, “Cryogenic Heat Capacities of Two Uranium Pnictides, UAs2 and USb2”,  Thermodynamics of Nuclear Materials 1974, Vol. II, International Atomic Energy, Vienna, 1975; 409-418.
  2. James A. Sommers, Edgar F. Westrum, Jr., “Heat Capacity of Lighter Lanthanide Trichlorides in the Solid State”, Proceedings of the 12th Rare Earth Research Conference, Vail, CO, USA, July 1976; 433-442.
  3. James A. Sommers, Edgar F. Westrum, Jr., “Thermodynamics of the lanthanide halides I. Heat Capacities and Schottky anomalies of LaCl3, PrCl3, and NdCl3 from 5 to 350 K.” J. Chem. Thermodynamics, 1976, 8, 1115-1136.
  4. James A. Sommers, Edgar F. Westrum, Jr., “Thermodynamics of the lanthanide halides II. Heat Capacities and Schottky anomalies of SmCl3, EuCl3, and GdCl3 from 5 to 350 K.” J. Chem. Thermodynamics, 1977, 9, 1-26.
  5. E. F. Westrum, Jr. and J. A. Sommers, “Heat Capacity of Hafnium Mononitride from Temperatures of 5 to 350 K.” Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, Vol. 69(2002) 103-112.

Representative Patents and Applications

  1. James A. Sommers (Monsanto Company), “Ammoxidation Catalyst”, Canadian Patent CA 1,161,823, 02 07 1984.
  2. James A. Sommers (Teledyne Industries, Inc.), “Ultra high purity halides and their preparation”, U.S. Patent 4,910,009, Mar. 20, 1990.
  3. James A. Sommers (Teledyne Industries, Inc.), “Process for lowering residual tantalum values in niobium”, U.S. Patent 4,948,570, Aug. 14, 1990.
  4. James A. Sommers (Teledyne Industries, Inc.), “Process for making niobium oxide”, U.S. Patent 5,188,810, Feb. 23, 1993.
  5. James A. Sommers (Teledyne Industries, Inc.). “Process for making solutions containing basic zirconium and hafnium chlorides”, World Intellectual Property Organization, WO 94/12435; 09.06.94.
  6. James A. Sommers (Teledyne Industries, Inc.), “Method for making soluble zirconium and hafnium organic acid complexes”, U.S. Patent 5,581,003, Dec. 3, 1996.
  7. James A. Sommers (Teledyne Industries, Inc.), “Process for recovery of zirconium basic sulfate”, U.S. Patent 6,358,484 B1, Mar. 19, 2002.
  8. James A. Sommers, Jeff G. Perrine (ATI Properties, Inc.), “Method for separating hafnium from zirconium”, U.S. Patent 6,737,030 B2, May 18, 2004.
  9. James A. Sommers (ATI Properties, Inc,), “Methods for making brines”, U.S. Patent 8,377,409 B2, Feb. 19, 2013.

Representative work originating in affiliation with Wah Chang (Originally, just Wah Chang, stand-alone corporation, later acquired by parent Teledyne, Inc., still later by Allegheny Technologies, Inc. (ATI))

  1. J. A. Sommers and V. Q. Perkins, “Research and development for commercial production of high-purity ZrF4 and HfF4“   Materials Science Forum Vols. 32-33, (1988), Trans Tech  Publications, Switzerland, 629-634.
  2. James A. Sommers, Jeff V. Fahey, Kenneth J. Ewing, Ishwar D. Aggarwal, “The fate of selected impurities in the recrystallization of zirconium oxychloride and in its conversion  to zirconium tetrafluoride”, J. Mater. Res. Vol. 5(2), 392-396, 1990.
  3. Kenneth J. Ewing, James Jaganathan, Laura Peitersen, Ishwar D. Aggarwal, “Radiotracer Study of the Preparation of High-Purity Lanthanum Fluoride”’ J. Am. Ceram. Soc. 75[6] 1562-65, 1992.
  4. J. A. Sommers, J. R. Peterson, L. J. Fenwick, T. R. McQueary, M. A. Rossback, “Materials From Ferroalloys I. Nitride Processing of Ferroniobium to Niobium Metal”, Light Metals 1992, Euel R. Cutshall (ed.), The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, 1991, 1303-1304.
  5. J. A. Sommers, L. J.Fenwick, V. Q. Perkins, “Materials from Ferroalloys II.  Processing of Ferroniobium to Niobium Nitride, Carbide, Oxide and Aluminide”, Light Metals 1992, Euel R. Cutshall (ed.), The Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society, 1991, 1305-1307.
  6. James A. Sommers, “Materials from Ferroalloys III.  High Energy Synthesis of Oxide Materials from Combustion of Niobium Nitride”, Light Metals 1995, J. Evans (ed.)  The Metals, Minerals, & Materials Society, 1995, 1375-1378.
  7. John A. Gardner, H. T. Su, A. G. McKale, S. S. Kao; L. L. Peng, W. H. Warnes, James A. Sommers, K. Athreya, H. Franzen, S-J. Kim, “Temperature dependence of YBa2Cu3O7-δ local Structure: A perturbed-angular-correlation study”, Phys. Rev. B, 38(16), 1988, 11317-11321.
  8. Han Tzong Su, Ruiping Wang, Heinz Fuchs, John A. Gardner, William H. Evenson, James A. Sommers, “Study of Oxygen Vacancies in Ceramics by Perturbed Angular Correlation Spectroscopy”, J. Am. Ceram. Soc., 73(11), 1990, 3215-3219.
  9. Georg Weidlich, Michael Golz, Ruiping Wang, William Evenson, Douglas A. Keszler, James A. Sommers, Jerome E. Ostenson, “Structural and electronic properties of indium-doped YBa2Cu3O7-σ”   J. Mater. Res., 6(3), 1991, 446-449.
  10. Ruiping Wang, John Gardner, William E. Evenson, James A. Sommers, “Oxygen-vacancy complexes in cerium oxide studied by 111In time-differential perturbed-angular-correlation spectroscopy”, Phys. Rev. B, 47(2), 1993, 638-651.
  11. Evguenia Karapetrova, Roland Platzer, John A. Gardner, Erwin Torne, James A. Sommers, William E. Evenson, “Oxygen Vacancies in Pure Tetragonal Zirconia Powders: Dependence on the Presence of Chlorine during Processing”, J. Am. Ceram. Soc. 84(1), 2001, 65-70.

Invited Chapter

Kenneth J. Ewing and James A. Sommers, “Purification and Analysis of Metal Fluorides for Use in         Heavy Metal Fluoride Glasses”  Chapter 4, Fluoride Glass Fiber Optics, Ishwar D. Aggarwal, Grant Lu, (eds).  Academic Press, Inc, 1991, 141-211.


Under names "Ruthven Murgatroyd" and “Robin Oakapple” (taken from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore).  

Ruthven Murgatroyd, "Area of a circle segment and length of its chord", Problem 840, College Mathematics Journal, 37(3), 2006; Published solution 38(5), 2007, 395.

James A. Sommers, Ruthven Murgatroyd, “Some Convex Solutions to the Sofa Problem”, PNW Regional Meeting, Mathematical Association of America, Central Washingtion University, Ellensburg, WA, April. 2009.

Jerry Minkus, San Francisco, CA; Ruthven Murgatroyd, Albany, OR; Albert Whitcomb, Castle Shannon, PA; (independently), Solution 2 selected for publication, “Nagel point, Euler line, and Fuhrmann circle”, Problem 897, College Mathematics Journal, 41(2), 2010, 162.

Lucas Mol(student), Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada and Ruthven Murgatroyd, Albany, OR, (independently), Solution selected for publication: “Equal Cevian Intercepts”, Problem 926, College Mathematics Journal, 42(3), 2011, 235.

Robin Oakapple, Problem 11745, “A Construction with Two Rectangles”, American Mathematical Monthly, December, 2013; Published solution 122(10), 2013, 1013.

Robin Oakapple, Problem 11807,  “Three of Four Sides Equal”, American Mathematical Monthly, December, 2014; Published solution 123(10), 2016, 947.