Expression and interactions of stereochemically active lone pairs and their relation to structural distortions and thermal conductivity

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In chemistry, stereochemically active lone pairs are typically described as an important non-bonding effect, and recent interest has centred on understanding the derived effect of lone pair expression on physical properties such as thermal conductivity. To manipulate such properties, it is essential to understand the conditions that lead to lone pair expression and provide a quantitative chemical description of their identity to allow comparison between systems. Here, density functional theory calculations are used first to establish the presence of stereochemically active lone pairs on antimony in the archetypical chalcogenide MnSb2O4. The lone pairs are formed through a similar mechanism to those in binary post-transition metal compounds in an oxidation state of two less than their main group number [e.g. Pb(II) and Sb(III)], where the degree of orbital interaction (covalency) determines the expression of the lone pair. In MnSb2O4 the Sb lone pairs interact through a void space in the crystal structure, and their their mutual repulsion is minimized by introducing a deflection angle. This angle increases significantly with decreasing Sb - Sb distance introduced by simulating high pressure, thus showing the highly destabilizing nature of the lone pair interactions. Analysis of the chemical bonding in MnSb2O4 shows that it is dominated by polar covalent interactions with significant contributions both from charge accumulation in the bonding regions and from charge transfer. A database search of related ternary chalcogenide structures shows that, for structures with a lone pair (SbX 3 units), the degree of lone pair expression is largely determined by whether the antimony-chalcogen units are connected or not, suggesting a cooperative effect. Isolated SbX 3 units have larger X - Sb - X bond angles and therefore weaker lone pair expression than connected units. Since increased lone pair expression is equivalent to an increased orbital interaction (covalent bonding), which typically leads to increased heat conduction, this can explain the previously established correlation between larger bond angles and lower thermal conductivity. Thus, it appears that for these chalcogenides, lone pair expression and thermal conductivity may be related through the degree of covalency of the system.

Original languageEnglish
IssuePt 3
Pages (from-to)480-489
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

    Research areas

  • chemical bonding, electron densities., lone pairs, quantum crystallography, thermal conductivity, electron densities, CRYSTAL-STRUCTURE, BOND-VALENCE PARAMETERS, ELECTRON LOCALIZATION, HYDROTHERMAL SYNTHESIS, DENSITY, ORIGIN, CHEMICAL-BONDS, DIFFRACTION, PBO

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