Revisiting H2O Nucleation around Au(+) and Hg(2+): The Peculiar "Pseudo-Soft" Character of the Gold Cation.


Journal Article

In this contribution, we propose a deeper understanding of the electronic effects affecting the nucleation of water around the Au(+) and Hg(2+) metal cations using quantum chemistry. To do so, and in order to go beyond usual energetical studies, we make extensive use of state of the art quantum interpretative techniques combining ELF/NCI/QTAIM/EDA computations to capture all ranges of interactions stabilizing the well characterized microhydrated structures. The Electron Localization Function (ELF) topological analysis reveals the peculiar role of the Au+ outer-shell core electrons (subvalence) that appear already spatially preorganized once the addition of the first water molecule occurs. Thus, despite the addition of other water molecules, the electronic structure of Au(H2O)(+) appears frozen due to relativistic effects leading to a maximal acceptation of only two waters in gold's first hydration shell. As the values of the QTAIM (Quantum Theory of Atoms in Molecules) cations's charge is discussed, the Non Covalent Interactions (NCI) analysis showed that Au(+) appears still able to interact through longer range van der Waals interaction with the third or fourth hydration shell water molecules. As these types of interaction are not characteristic of either a hard or soft metal cation, we introduced the concept of a "pseudo-soft" cation to define Au(+) behavior. Then, extending the study, we performed the same computations replacing Au(+) with Hg(2+), an isoelectronic cation. If Hg(2+) behaves like Au(+) for small water clusters, a topological, geometrical, and energetical transition appears when the number of water molecules increases. Regarding the HSAB theory, this transition is characteristic of a shift of Hg(2+) from a pseudosoft form to a soft ion and appears to be due to a competition between the relativistic and correlation effects. Indeed, if relativistic effects are predominant, then mercury will behave like gold and have a similar subvalence/geometry; otherwise when correlation effects are predominant, Hg(2+) behaves like a soft cation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Chaudret, R; Contreras-Garcia, J; Delcey, M; Parisel, O; Yang, W; Piquemal, J-P

Published Date

  • May 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 1900 - 1909

PubMed ID

  • 24860276

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24860276

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1549-9626

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1549-9618

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1021/ct4006135


  • eng