Low-spin versus high-spin ground state in pseudo-octahedral iron complexes

David N. Bowman, Elena Jakubikova

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107 Scopus citations


Pseudo-octahedral complexes of iron find applications as switches in molecular electronic devices, materials for data storage, and, more recently, as candidates for dye-sensitizers in dye-sensitized solar cells. Iron, as a first row transition metal, provides a weak ligand-field splitting in an octahedral environment. This results in the presence of low-lying 5T excited states that, depending on the identity of iron ligands, can become the ground state of the complex. The small energy difference between the low-spin, 1A, and high-spin, 5T, states presents a challenge for accurate prediction of their ground state using density functional theory. In this work, we investigate the applicability of the B3LYP functional to the ground state determination of first row transition metal complexes, focusing mainly on Fe(II) polypyridine complexes with ligands of varying ligand field strength. It has been shown previously that B3LYP artificially favors the 5T state as the ground state of Fe(II) complexes, and the error in the energy differences between the 1A and 5T states is systematic for a set of structurally related complexes. We demonstrate that structurally related complexes can be defined as pseudo-octahedral complexes that undergo similar distortion in the metal-ligand coordination environment between the high-spin and low-spin states. The systematic behavior of complexes with similar distortion can be exploited, and the ground state of an arbitrary Fe(II) complex can be determined by comparing the calculated energy differences between the singlet and quintet electronic states of a complex to the energy differences of structurally related complexes with a known, experimentally determined ground state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6011-6019
Number of pages9
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 4 2012


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