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Open Access Publications from the University of California

f‑Orbital Mixing in the Octahedral f2 Compounds UX6 2– [X = F, Br, Cl, I] and PrCl6 3–


Understanding how interactions between the f orbitals and ligand orbitals in lanthanide and actinide systems affect their physical properties is the central issue in f-element chemistry. A wide variety of approaches including both theoretical and experimental tools have been used to study these relationships. Among the most widely used tools has been crystal field theory (CFT), which bridges theory and experiment in that it is a model based largely on atomic theory that is parametrized using experimental data. Crystal field theory is quite accurate for the lanthanides, due in part to the highly contracted nature of the 4f orbitals. For actinides, crystal field theory is less accurate, potentially due to the treatment of orbital mixing. In CFT, orbital mixing is handled implicitly by allowing the electron repulsion parameters (Slater Fk parameters) and the spin-orbit coupling constant to vary. As a result, orbital mixing in CFT is isotropic in that the Fk parameters and the spin-orbit coupling constant affect all f orbitals equally. This approximation works well for the lanthanides due to the limited degree of orbital mixing in these complexes. In actinide complexes, the 5f orbitals have greater overlap with the ligand orbitals, and this approximation is less accurate than in the lanthanides. Here, we report a modification of CFT that includes the effect of orbital mixing on electron repulsion and spin-orbit coupling for each f orbital. The model is applied to the tetravalent uranium hexahalide dianions and PrCl63- for which the energies of many low-lying excited states are known. The new model generally fits the data as well the traditional CFT although with fewer parameters. However, the new model does not fit the data better than the more complex CFT models of Faucher and co-workers. The results of the model show in detail how changes in overlap and orbital energies influence the energies of the bonding and antibonding orbitals.

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