Lanthanoid coordination prompts unusually distorted pseudo-octahedral NiII coordination in heterodinuclear Ni–Ln complexes: synthesis, structure and understanding of magnetic behaviour through experiment and computation†
In this work, a new family of binuclear NiII–LnIII complexes with the formula [NiLn(L)2(NO3)3]·0.5H2O (Ln = Gd, 1; Tb, 2; Dy, 3; Ho, 4; Er, 5; Yb, 6; Y, 7) was synthesized using a thioether group-bearing Schiff base. Due to the strict hard/soft dichotomy between the 4f and 3d metal ions, selective coordination of NiII and 4f metal ions was achieved with the adjacent soft ONS and hard OO binding pockets of the ligand. All the complexes 1–7 exhibit a NiII centre in a distorted pseudo-octahedral geometry with the LnIII centres in distorted bicapped square-antiprism geometry. The huge distortion around the NiII centres is triggered for the accommodation of larger lanthanoids to the adjacent OO coordination site, and this forces the NiII centres to have a tridentate coordination from the ONS, as intermediate between meridional and facial binding. Field-induced single-molecule magnetic behaviour was observed for heterodinuclear complexes involving Kramers lanthanide ions (LnIII = Dy, Er and Yb), with magnetic relaxation occurring through an Orbach process only for 5. DFT calculations using various functionals (BP86, B3LYP, PBE0, TPSSh, PWPB95, R2SCAN) were applied to calculate the isotropic exchange, showing good agreement with the experiment (JGd–Ni = +1.78 cm−1). CASSCF calculations for NiII and LnIII ions were also performed to reveal detailed information about their electronic structure and magnetic anisotropy, supporting the experimental observations. This study accentuates the mutual distortion of coordination geometry induced by flexibility of the ligand backbone with the simultaneous binding of two different metal ions.