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Lanthanide () oxide clusters and molecular systems provide a bottom-up look at the electronic structures of the bulk materials because of close parallels in the patterns of 4f subshell occupancy between the molecular and bulk O size limits. At the same time, these clusters and molecules offer a challenge to the theory community to find appropriate and robust treatments for the 4f patterns across the series. Anion photoelectron (PE) spectroscopy provides a powerful experimental tool for studying these systems, mapping the energies of the ground and low-lying excited states of the neutral relative to the initial anion state, providing spectroscopic patterns that reflect the 4f occupancy. In this Account, we review our anion PE spectroscopic and computational studies on a range of small lanthanide molecules and cluster species. The PE spectra of O ( = Ce, Pr, Sm, Eu) diatomic molecules show spectroscopic signatures associated with detachment of an electron from what can be described as a diffuse 6s-like orbital. While the spectra of all four diatomics share this common transition, the fine structure in the transition becomes more complex with increasing 4f occupancy. This effect reflects increased coupling between the electrons occupying the corelike 4f and diffuse 6s orbitals with increasing . Understanding the PE spectra of these diatomics sets the stage for interpreting the spectra of polyatomic molecular and cluster species. In general, the results confirm that the partial 4f subshell occupancy is largely preserved between molecular and bulk oxides and borides. However, they also suggest that surfaces and edges of bulk materials may support a low-energy, diffuse 6s band, in contrast to bulk interiors, in which the 6s band is destabilized relative to the 5d band. We also identify cases in which the molecular centers have 4f occupancy rather than bulklike 4f, which results in weaker -O bonding. Specifically, Sm centers in mixed Ce-Sm oxides or in SmO ( ≤ ) clusters have this higher 4f occupancy. The PE spectra of these particular species exhibit a striking increase in the relative intensities of excited-state transitions with decreasing photon energy (resulting in lower photoelectron kinetic energy). This is of what is expected on the basis of the threshold laws that govern photodetachment. We relate this phenomenon to strong electron-neutral interactions unique to these complex electronic structures. The time scale of the interaction, which shakes up the electronic configuration of the neutral, increases with decreasing electron momentum. From a computational standpoint, we point out that special care must be taken when considering cluster and molecular systems toward the center of the series (e.g., Sm, Eu), where treatment of electrons explicitly or using an effective core potential can yield conflicting results on competing subshell occupancies. However, despite the complex electronic structures associated with partially filled 4f subshells, we demonstrate that inexpensive and tractable calculations yield useful qualitative insight into the general electronic structural features.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Accounts of chemical research
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