Theory and practice of uncommon molecular electronic configurations

Ganna Gryn'ova, Michelle L. Coote, Clemence Corminboeuf

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
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The electronic configuration of the molecule is the foundation of its structure and reactivity. The spin state is one of the key characteristics arising from the ordering of electrons within the molecule's set of orbitals. Organic molecules that have open-shell ground states and interesting physicochemical properties, particularly those influencing their spin alignment, are of immense interest within the up-and-coming field of molecular electronics. In this advanced review, we scrutinize various qualitative rules of orbital occupation and spin alignment, viz., the aufbau principle, Hund's multiplicity rule, and dynamic spin polarization concept, through the prism of quantum mechanics. While such rules hold in selected simple cases, in general the spin state of a system depends on a combination of electronic factors that include Coulomb and Pauli repulsion, nuclear attraction, kinetic energy, orbital relaxation, and static correlation. A number of fascinating chemical systems with spin states that fluctuate between triplet and open-shell singlet, and are responsive to irradiation, pH, and other external stimuli, are highlighted. In addition, we outline a range of organic molecules with intriguing non-aufbau orbital configurations. In such quasi-closed-shell systems, the singly occupied molecular orbital (SOMO) is energetically lower than one or more doubly occupied orbitals. As a result, the SOMO is not affected by electron attachment to or removal from the molecule, and the products of such redox processes are polyradicals. These peculiar species possess attractive conductive and magnetic properties, and a number of them that have already been developed into molecular electronics applications are highlighted in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-459
Number of pages20
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Computational Molecular Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • molecular
  • electronic
  • configurations
  • Organic
  • physicochemical
  • kinetic energy


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