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Chemistry of Materials

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Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society. Stereochemically active lone pairs of electrons play an important role in a diverse range of physical phenomena in many materials, ranging from semiconducting halide perovskites to thermochromic inorganic-organic hybrids. In this paper, we demonstrate the importance of the 6s2 lone pair of Pb on the reversible thermochromic transition in the mixed-anion inorganic compound, PbVO3Cl. This 6s2 stereochemically active lone pair results in subtle structural distortions upon heating while maintaining its overall orthorhombic structure. These distortions result in competing interactions with the Pb 6s2 lone pair and ultimately, a pronounced change between yellow and red at ∼200 °C. X-ray diffraction analyses of PbVO3Cl demonstrate two-dimensional features in contrast to the three-dimensional network in isostructural BaVO3Cl. X-ray and neutron pair distribution function experiments reveal that Pb-O interatomic distances decrease upon heating, while Pb-Cl distances are only affected by thermal motion. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements provide experimental evidence of the presence of the 6s2 lone pair at the valence band maximum, which are corroborated by first-principles calculations. The results demonstrate a broadly generalizable mechanism for using repulsions between lone-pair electrons of p-block cations to drive discontinuous changes of local symmetry and electronic structure.


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This document is the unedited Author’s version of a Submitted Work that was subsequently accepted for publication in Chemistry of Materials, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review. To access the final edited and published work see