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Accounts of Chemical Research

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ConspectusThe lone pair has been a known feature of the electronic structure of molecules for over 100 years. Beginning with the pioneering work of Lewis and others that was later developed into useful guidelines for predicting molecular structure, lone pairs and their steric consequences are now taught at the very earliest stages of a chemistry education. In the crystalline solid state, lone pairs have perhaps had a less visible yet equally consequential role, with a significant impact on a range of properties and functionalities. Important properties associated with s2 electron-derived lone pairs include their role in creating conditions favorable for ion transport, in the formation and correlation of local dipoles and the resulting polar behavior leading to ferroics and multiferroics, in increasing the refractive index of glass, in reducing the thermal conductivity of thermoelectric materials, and in breaking local symmetry permitting second-harmonic light generation.. In recent years, the role of the lone pair in developing the electronic structure of some topological quantum materials has also been recognized. While structural distortions due to lone pairs have traditionally been characterized through their crystallography, recent advances in scattering and spectroscopy have revealed the presence of local lone pair-driven distortions that do not correlate over long length scales. The role of these crystallographically "hidden"lone pairs, their detection, and their impact on properties have become a growing body of work in the literature. Hidden lone pairs are an effective argument for considering a role for lone pairs that goes beyond their being objects that occupy space in the coordination polyhedra of cations. This Account introduces the chemistry of lone pairs in extended crystalline solids, including a discussion of when they are stereochemically active, how they manifest in the structure, and how their chemistry can be tuned by the chemical environment around them. Eventually, all of these factors work in unison to help develop and tune properties of interest. Certain specific examples of structure-property relationships in materials that are driven by lone pair behavior are described here, including the potential impact of lone pairs on the optical and electronic properties of hybrid halide perovskite compounds that are relevant to their photovoltaic applications. We highlight the role of lone pairs in the dielectric behavior of geometrically frustrated pyrochlores, the temperature-dependent optoelectronic behavior of halide perovskites, the polar phase transitions in lead-free ferroelectric perovskites, and the compositional insulator-to-metal transition in ruthenium pyrochlores. The theme underpinning this Account is that the lone pair can be considered to be a powerful design element for a broad range of material function.

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