The origin of the stereochemically active Pb(II) lone pair: DFT calculations on PbO and PbS

Aron Walsh, Graeme W. Watson

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239 Scopus citations


The concept of a chemically inert but stereochemically active 6s 2 lone pair is commonly associated with Pb(II). We have performed density functional theory calculations on PbO and PbS in both the rocksalt and litharge structures which show anion dependence of the stereochemically active lone pair. PbO is more stable in litharge while PbS is not, and adopts the symmetric rocksalt structure showing no lone pair activity. Analysis of the electron density, density of states and crystal orbital overlap populations shows that the asymmetric electron density formed by Pb(II) is a direct result of anion-cation interactions. The formation has a strong dependence on the electronic states of the anion and while oxygen has the states required for interaction with Pb 6s, sulphur does not. This explains for the first time why PbO forms distorted structures and possesses an asymmetric density and PbS forms symmetric structures with no lone pair activity. This analysis shows that distorted Pb(II) structures are not the result of chemically inert, sterically active lone pairs, but instead result from asymmetric electron densities that rely on direct electronic interaction with the coordinated anions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1422-1428
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Solid State Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Density functional theory
  • Electronic structure
  • Lead oxide
  • Lone pairs


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