The chemist’s concept of molecular structure



The concept of molecular structure is fundamental to the practice and understanding of chemistry, but the meaning of this term has evolved and is still evolving. The Born–Oppenheimer separation of electronic and nuclear motions lies at the heart of most modern quantum chemical models of molecular structure. While this separation introduces a great computational and practical simplification, it is neither essential to the conceptual formulation of molecular structure nor universally valid. Going beyond the Born–Oppenheimer approximation introduces new paradigms, bringing fresh insight into the chemistry of fluxional molecules, proteins, superconductors and macroscopic dielectrics, thus opening up new avenues for exploration. But it requires that our ideas of molecular structure need to evolve beyond simple ball-and-stick-type models.


Molecular structure Born–Oppenheimer approximation Jahn–Teller molecules Protein structure Atoms in molecules Geometric phase Molecular similarity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry & Biological Chemistry, Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary StudiesRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyUSA

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