American Chemical Society
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Water versus Acetonitrile Coordination to Uranyl. Effect of Chloride Ligands

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-02-22, 06:55 authored by Michael Bühl, Nicolas Sieffert, Alain Chaumont, Georges Wipff
Optimizations at the BLYP and B3LYP levels are reported for the mixed uranyl chloro/water/acetonitrile complexes [UO2Cln(H2O)x(MeCN)5–nx]2–n (n = 1–3) and [UO2Cln(H2O)x(MeCN)4–nx]2–n (n = 2–4), in both the gas phase and a polarizable continuum modeling acetonitrile. Car–Parrinello molecular dynamics (CPMD) simulations have been performed for [UO2Cl2(H2O)­(MeCN)2] in the gas phase and in a periodic box of liquid acetonitrile. According to population analyses and dipole moments evaluated from maximally localized Wannier function centers, uranium is less Lewis acidic in the neutral UO2Cl2 than in the UO22+ moiety. In the gas phase the latter binds acetonitrile ligands more strongly than water, whereas in acetonitrile solution, the trend is reversed due to cooperative polarization effects. In the polarizable continuum the chloro complexes have a slight energetic preference for water over acetonitrile ligands, but several mixed complexes are so close in free energy ΔG that they should exist in equilibrium, in accord with previous interpretations of EXAFS data in solution. The binding strengths of the fifth neutral ligands decrease with increasing chloride content, to the extent that the trichlorides should be formulated as four-coordinate [UO2Cl3L] (L = H2O, MeCN). Limitations to their accuracy notwithstanding, density functional calculations can offer insights into the speciation of a complex uranyl system in solution, a key feature in the context of nuclear waste partitioning by complexant molecules.