Evidence for 5d-σ and 5d-π covalency in lanthanide sesquioxides from oxygen K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy
The electronic structure in the complete series of stable lanthanide sesquioxides, Ln2O3 (Ln = La to Lu, except radioactive Pm), has been evaluated using oxygen K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) with a scanning transmission X-ray microscope (STXM). The experimental results agree with recent synthetic, spectroscopic and theoretical investigations that provided evidence for 5d orbital involvement in lanthanide bonding, while confirming the traditional viewpoint that there is little Ln 4f and O 2p orbital mixing. However, the results also showed that changes in the energy and occupancy of the 4f orbitals can impact Ln 5d and O 2p mixing, leading to several different bonding modes for seemingly identical Ln2O3 structures. On moving from left to right in the periodic table, abrupt changes were observed for the energy and intensity of transitions associated with Ln 5d and O 2p antibonding states. These changes in peak intensity, which were directly related to the amounts of O 2p and Ln 5d mixing, were closely correlated to the well-established trends in the chemical accessibility of the 4f orbitals towards oxidation or reduction. The unique insight provided by the O K-edge XAS is discussed in the context of several recent theoretical and physical studies on trivalent lanthanide compounds.
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