A mapping of the electron localization function for the silica polymorphs: evidence for domains of electron pairs and sites of potential electrophilic attack
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The electron localization function, η, evaluated for first-principles geometry optimized model structures generated for quartz and coesite, reveals that the oxide anions are coordinated by two hemispherically shaped η-isosurfaces located along each of the SiO bond vectors comprising the SiOSi angles. With one exception, they are also coordinated by larger banana-shaped isosurfaces oriented perpendicular to the plane centered in the vicinity of the apex of each angle. The hemispherical isosurfaces, ascribed to domains of localized bond-pair electrons, are centered ∼0.70 Å along the bond vectors from the oxide anions and the banana-shaped isosurfaces, ascribed to domains of localized nonbonding lone-pair electrons, are centered ∼0.60 Å from the apex of the angle. The oxide anion comprising the straight SiOSi angle in coesite is the one exception in that the banana-shaped isosurface is missing; however, it is coordinated by two hemispherically shaped isosurfaces that lie along the bond vectors. In the case of a first-principles model structure generated for stishovite, the oxide anion is coordinated by five hemispherically shaped η-isosurfaces, one located along each of the three SiO bond vectors (ascribed to domains of bonding-electron pairs) that are linked to the anion with the remaining two (ascribed to domains of nonbonding-electron pairs) located on opposite sides of the plane defined by three vectors, each isosurface at a distance of ∼0.5 Å from the anion. The distribution of the five isosurfaces is in a one-to-one correspondence with the distribution of the maxima displayed by experimental Δρ and theoretical −∇2ρ maps. Isosurface η maps calculated for quartz and the (HO)3SiOSi(OH)3 molecule also exhibit maxima that correspond with the (3,−3) maxima displayed by distributions of −∇2ρ. Deformation maps observed for the SiOSi bridges for the silica polymorphs and a number of silicates are similar to that calculated for the molecule but, for the majority, the maxima ascribed to lone-pair features are absent. The domains of localized nonbonding-electron pair coordinating the oxide anions of quartz and coesite provide a basis for explaining the flexibility and the wide range of the SiOSi angles exhibited by the silica polymorphs with four-coordinate Si. They also provide a basis for explaining why the SiO bond length in coesite decreases with increasing angle. As found in studies of the interactions of solute molecules with a solvent, a mapping of η-isosurfaces for geometry-optimized silicates is expected to become a powerful tool for deducing potential sites of electrophilic attack and reactivity for Earth materials. The positions of the features ascribed to the lone pairs in coesite correspond with the positions of the H atoms recently reported for an H-doped coesite crystal.
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