Electron-Poor Polar Intermetallics: Complex Structures, Novel Clusters, and Intriguing Bonding with Pronounced Electron Delocalization

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Chemistry, Ames Laboratory

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Accepted Manuscript

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Accounts of Chemical Research





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Intermetallic compounds represent an extensive pool of candidates for energy related applications stemming from magnetic, electric, optic, caloric, and catalytic properties. The discovery of novel intermetallic compounds can enhance understanding of the chemical principles that govern structural stability and chemical bonding as well as finding new applications. Valence electron-poor polar intermetallics with valence electron concentrations (VECs) between 2.0 and 3.0 e–/atom show a plethora of unprecedented and fascinating structural motifs and bonding features. Therefore, establishing simple structure-bonding-property relationships is especially challenging for this compound class because commonly accepted valence electron counting rules are inappropriate.

During our efforts to find quasicrystals and crystalline approximants by valence electron tuning near 2.0 e–/atom, we observed that compositions close to those of quasicrystals are exceptional sources for unprecedented valence electron-poor polar intermetallics, e.g., Ca4Au10In3 containing (Au10In3) wavy layers, Li14.7Mg36.8Cu21.5Ga66 adopting a type IV clathrate framework, and Sc4MgxCu15-xGa7.5 that is incommensurately modulated. In particular, exploratory syntheses of AAu3T (A = Ca, Sr, Ba and T = Ge, Sn) phases led to interesting bonding features for Au, such as columns, layers, and lonsdaleite-type tetrahedral frameworks. Overall, the breadth of Au-rich polar intermetallics originates, in part, from significant relativistics effect on the valence electrons of Au, effects which result in greater 6s/5d orbital mixing, a small effective metallic radius, and an enhanced Mulliken electronegativity, all leading to ultimate enhanced binding with nearly all metals including itself. Two other successful strategies to mine electron-poor polar intermetallics include lithiation and “cation-rich” phases. Along these lines, we have studied lithiated Zn-rich compounds in which structural complexity can be realized by small amounts of Li replacing Zn atoms in the parent binary compounds CaZn2, CaZn3, and CaZn5; their phase formation and bonding schemes can be rationalized by Fermi surface–Brillouin zone interactions between nearly free-electron states. “Cation-rich”, electron-poor polar intermetallics have emerged using rare earth metals as the electropositive (“cationic”) component together metal/metalloid clusters that mimic the backbones of aromatic hydrocarbon molecules, which give evidence of extensive electronic delocalization and multicenter bonding. Thus, we can identify three distinct, valence electron-poor, polar intermetallic systems that have yielded unprecedented phases adopting novel structures containing complex clusters and intriguing bonding characteristics.

In this Account, we summarize our recent specific progress in the developments of novel Au-rich BaAl4-type related structures, shown in the “gold-rich grid”, lithiation-modulated Ca–Li–Zn phases stabilized by different bonding characteristics, and rare earth-rich polar intermetallics containing unprecedented hydrocarbon-like planar Co–Ge metal clusters and pronounced delocalized multicenter bonding. We will focus mainly on novel structural motifs, bonding analyses, and the role of valence electrons for phase stability.


This document is the Accepted Manuscript version of a Published Work that appeared in final form in Accounts of Chemical Research, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review and technical editing by the publisher. To access the final edited and published work see DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00488. Posted with permission.

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American Chemical Society



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Published Version