Halogen bonding: the sigma-hole. Proceedings of "Modeling interactions in biomolecules II", Prague, September 5th-9th, 2005.

Research paper by Timothy T Clark, Matthias M Hennemann, Jane S JS Murray, Peter P Politzer

Indexed on: 24 Aug '06Published on: 24 Aug '06Published in: Journal of Molecular Modeling


Halogen bonding refers to the non-covalent interactions of halogen atoms X in some molecules, RX, with negative sites on others. It can be explained by the presence of a region of positive electrostatic potential, the sigma-hole, on the outermost portion of the halogen's surface, centered on the R-X axis. We have carried out a natural bond order B3LYP analysis of the molecules CF(3)X, with X = F, Cl, Br and I. It shows that the Cl, Br and I atoms in these molecules closely approximate the [Formula: see text] configuration, where the z-axis is along the R-X bond. The three unshared pairs of electrons produce a belt of negative electrostatic potential around the central part of X, leaving the outermost region positive, the sigma-hole. This is not found in the case of fluorine, for which the combination of its high electronegativity plus significant sp-hybridization causes an influx of electronic charge that neutralizes the sigma-hole. These factors become progressively less important in proceeding to Cl, Br and I, and their effects are also counteracted by the presence of electron-withdrawing substituents in the remainder of the molecule. Thus a sigma-hole is observed for the Cl in CF(3)Cl, but not in CH(3)Cl.