The density functional theory (DFT) based hard-soft acid-base (HSAB) reactivity indices, including the electrophilicity index, have been successfully applied to many areas of molecular chemistry. In this work we test the applicability of such an approach to fundamental surface chemistry. We have considered, as prototypical surface reactions, both the hydrogenation of atomic nitrogen and the dissociative adsorption of the NH molecular radical. By use of a DFT methodology, the minimum energy reaction pathways, and corresponding reaction barriers, of the above reactions over Zr(001), Nb(110), Mo(110), Tc(001), Ru(001), Rh(111), and Pd(111) have been determined. By consideration of the chemical potential and chemical hardness of the surface metal atoms, and the principle of electronegativity equalization, it is found that the charge transferred to the NH radical during the process of dissociative adsorption correlates very well with that determined by Mulliken population analysis. Furthermore, it is found that the stability of the NH/surface transition state complex relates directly to this charge transfer and that the trend in transition state stability predicted by a HSAB; treatment correlates very strongly with that determined by DFT calculations. With regards to N hydrogenation, we find that during the course of the reaction, H loses cohesion to the surface, as it must migrate from a 3-fold hollow site to either a bridge or top site, to react with N. Partial density of states (PDOS) and Mulliken population analysis reveal that this loss of bonding is accompanied by charge transfer from H to the surface metal atoms. Moreover, by simple modeling, we show that the reaction barriers are directly proportional to this mandatory charge transfer. Indeed, it is found that the reaction barriers correlate very well with the electrophilicity index of the metal atoms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry