A Paramagnetic Bonding Mechanism for Diatomics in Strong Magnetic Fields

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Science  20 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6092, pp. 327-331
DOI: 10.1126/science.1219703

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Elementary chemistry distinguishes two kinds of strong bonds between atoms in molecules: the covalent bond, where bonding arises from valence electron pairs shared between neighboring atoms, and the ionic bond, where transfer of electrons from one atom to another leads to Coulombic attraction between the resulting ions. We present a third, distinct bonding mechanism: perpendicular paramagnetic bonding, generated by the stabilization of antibonding orbitals in their perpendicular orientation relative to an external magnetic field. In strong fields such as those present in the atmospheres of white dwarfs (on the order of 105 teslas) and other stellar objects, our calculations suggest that this mechanism underlies the strong bonding of H2 in the Σ3u+(1σg1σu*) triplet state and of He2 in the Σ1g+(1σg21σu*2) singlet state, as well as their preferred perpendicular orientation in the external field.

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