Hard and soft acids and bases: atoms and atomic ions.

Research paper by James L JL Reed

Indexed on: 31 May '08Published on: 31 May '08Published in: Inorganic Chemistry


The structural origin of hard-soft behavior in atomic acids and bases has been explored using a simple orbital model. The Pearson principle of hard and soft acids and bases has been taken to be the defining statement about hard-soft behavior and as a definition of chemical hardness. There are a number of conditions that are imposed on any candidate structure and associated property by the Pearson principle, which have been exploited. The Pearson principle itself has been used to generate a thermodynamically based scale of relative hardness and softness for acids and bases (operational chemical hardness), and a modified Slater model has been used to discern the electronic origin of hard-soft behavior. Whereas chemical hardness is a chemical property of an acid or base and the operational chemical hardness is an experimental measure of it, the absolute hardness is a physical property of an atom or molecule. A critical examination of chemical hardness, which has been based on a more rigorous application of the Pearson principle and the availability of quantitative measures of chemical hardness, suggests that the origin of hard-soft behavior for both acids and bases resides in the relaxation of the electrons not undergoing transfer during the acid-base interaction. Furthermore, the results suggest that the absolute hardness should not be taken as synonymous with chemical hardness but that the relationship is somewhat more complex. Finally, this work provides additional groundwork for a better understanding of chemical hardness that will inform the understanding of hardness in molecules.