The 14th International Conference on

Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences

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Ionization energy





 

Ionization energy

In physics and chemistry, ionization energy (American English spelling) or ionisation energy (British English spelling), denoted Ei, is the minimum amount of energy required to remove the most loosely bound electron, the valence electron, of an isolated neutral gaseous atom or molecule.

The sciences of physics and chemistry use different measures of ionization energy. In physics, the unit is the amount of energy required to remove a single electron from a single atom or molecule, expressed as electronvolts. In chemistry, the unit is the amount of energy required for all of the atoms in a mole of substance to lose one electron each: molar ionization energy or enthalpy, expressed as kilojoules per mole (kJ/mol) or kilocalories per mole (kcal/mol).

Generally, the (n+1)th ionization energy is larger than the nth ionization energy. When the next ionization energy involves removing an electron from the same electron shell, the increase in ionization energy is primarily due to the increased net charge of the ion from which the electron is being removed. Electrons removed from more highly charged ions of a particular element experience greater forces of electrostatic attraction; thus, their removal requires more energy. In addition, when the next ionization energy involves removing an electron from a lower electron shell, the greatly decreased distance between the nucleus and the electron also increases both the electrostatic force and the distance over which that force must be overcome to remove the electron. Both of these factors further increase the ionization energy.

Large jumps in the successive molar ionization energies occur when passing noble gas configurations. For example, as can be seen in the table above, the first two molar ionization energies of magnesium (stripping the two 3s electrons from a magnesium atom) are much smaller than the third, which requires stripping off a 2p electron from the neon configuration of Mg2+. That electron is much closer to the nucleus than the previous 3s electron.

Ionization energy is also a periodic trend within the periodic table organization. Moving left to right within a period, or upward within a group, the first ionization energy generally increases, with some exceptions such as aluminum and sulfur in the table above. As the nuclear charge of the nucleus increases across the period, the atomic radius decreases and the electron cloud becomes closer towards the nucleus.

According to the more complete theory of quantum mechanics, the location of an electron is best described as a probability distribution within an electron cloud, i.e. atomic orbital. The energy can be calculated by integrating over this cloud. The cloud's underlying mathematical representation is the wavefunction which is built from Slater determinants consisting of molecular spin orbitals. These are related by Pauli's exclusion principle to the antisymmetrized products of the atomic or molecular orbitals.

In general, calculating the nth ionization energy requires calculating the energies of {\displaystyle Z-n+1}Z-n+1 and {\displaystyle Z-n}Z-n electron systems. Calculating these energies exactly is not possible except for the simplest systems (i.e. hydrogen), primarily because of difficulties in integrating the electron correlation terms. Therefore, approximation methods are routinely employed, with different methods varying in complexity (computational time) and in accuracy compared to empirical data. This has become a well-studied problem and is routinely done in computational chemistry. At the lowest level of approximation, the ionization energy is provided by Koopmans' theorem.

Due to the possible changes in molecular geometry that may result from ionization, additional transitions may exist between the vibrational ground state of the neutral species and vibrational excited states of the positive ion. In other words, ionization is accompanied by vibrational excitation. The intensity of such transitions are explained by the Franck–Condon principle, which predicts that the most probable and intense transition corresponds to the vibrational excited state of the positive ion that has the same geometry as the neutral molecule. This transition is referred to as the "vertical" ionization energy since it is represented by a completely vertical line on a potential energy diagram (see Figure).

For a diatomic molecule, the geometry is defined by the length of a single bond. The removal of an electron from a bonding molecular orbital weakens the bond and increases the bond length. In Figure 1, the lower potential energy curve is for the neutral molecule and the upper surface is for the positive ion. Both curves plot the potential energy as a function of bond length. The horizontal lines correspond to vibrational levels with their associated vibrational wave functions. Since the ion has a weaker bond, it will have a longer bond length. This effect is represented by shifting the minimum of the potential energy curve to the right of the neutral species. The adiabatic ionization is the diagonal transition to the vibrational ground state of the ion. Vertical ionization may involve vibrational excitation of the ionic state and therefore requires greater energy.

In many circumstances, the adiabatic ionization energy is often a more interesting physical quantity since it describes the difference in energy between the two potential energy surfaces. However, due to experimental limitations, the adiabatic ionization energy is often difficult to determine, whereas the vertical detachment energy is easily identifiable and measurable.







 

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