Physical Understanding through Variational Reasoning: Electron Sharing and Covalent Bonding

TitlePhysical Understanding through Variational Reasoning: Electron Sharing and Covalent Bonding
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsRuedenberg K, Schmidt MW
Journal TitleJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Date Published03/12
ISBN Number1089-5639
Accession NumberISI:000263974800010
Keywordschemical-bond, ground-state, hydrogen molecule, ion, kinetic-energy, quantum-mechanics, virial

Energy changes of stationary states resulting from geometric parameter changes in the Hamiltonian can be understood by variational reasoning in terms of the physical attributes of the kinetic and the potential energy functionals. In atoms as well as molecules, the energy minimization determines the ground state as the optimal compromise between the potential pull of the nuclear attractions and the localization-resisting kinetic pressure of the electron cloud. This variational competition is analyzed for the exact ab initio ground-state wave function of the hydrogen molecule ion to elucidate the formation of the bond. Its electronic wave function is shown to differ from the ground-state wave function of the hydrogen atom by polarization, sharing, and contraction, and the corresponding contributions to the binding energy are examined in detail. All told, the critical feature is that a molecular orbital, contracting (in the variational context) toward two nuclei simultaneously, can lower its potential energy while maintaining a certain degree of delocalization. As a consequence, its kinetic energy functional has a lower value than that of an orbital contracting toward a single nucleus equally closely. By contrast, the potential energy functional is lowered equally effectively whether the orbital contracts toward one nucleus or simultaneously toward two nuclei. Because of this weaker kinetic energy pressure, the electrostatic potential pull of the nuclei in the molecule is able to attach the orbital more tightly to each of the nuclei than the pull of the single nucleus in the atom is able to do. The role of the virial theorem is clarified. Generalizations to other molecules are discussed.

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