- X + e− → X−
This property is measured for atoms and molecules in the gaseous state only, since in the solid or liquid states their energy levels would be changed by contact with other atoms or molecules. A list of the electron affinities was used by Robert S. Mulliken to develop an electronegativity scale for atoms, equal to the average of the electron affinity and ionization potential. Other theoretical concepts that use electron affinity include electronic chemical potential and chemical hardness. Another example, a molecule or atom that has a more positive value of electron affinity than another is often called an electron acceptor and the less positive an electron donor. Together they may undergo charge-transfer reactions.
To use electron affinities properly, it is essential to keep track of sign. For any reaction that releases energy, the change in energy, ΔE, has a negative value and the reaction is called an exothermic process. Electron capture for almost all non-noble gas atoms involves the release of energy and thus are exothermic. The positive values that are listed in tables of Eea are amounts or magnitudes. It is the word, released within the definition energy released that supplies the negative sign. Confusion arises in mistaking Eea for a change in energy, ΔE, in which case the positive values listed in tables would be for an endo- not exo-thermic process. The relation between the two is, Eea = - ΔE(attach).
However, if the value assigned to Eea is negative, the negative sign implies a reversal of direction, and energy is required to attach an electron. In this case, the electron capture is an endothermic process and the relationship, Eea = - ΔE(attach) is still valid. Negative values typically arise for the capture of a second electron, but also for the nitrogen atom.
The usual expression for calculating Eea when an electron is attached is
- Eea = (Einitial − Efinal)attach = - ΔE(attach)
This expression does follow the convention ΔX = X(final) - X(initial) since - ΔE = - (E(final) - E(initial)) = E(initial) - E(final).
- X− → X + e−
If the same table is employed for the forward and reverse reactions, without switching signs, care must be taken to apply the correct definition to the corresponding direction, attachment-(release) or detachment-(require). Since almost all detachments (require +) an amount of energy listed on the table, those detachment reactions are endothermic, or ΔE(detach) > 0.
- Eea = (Efinal − Einitial)detach = ΔE(detach) = - ΔE(attach)
Electron affinities of the elements
Although Eea varies greatly across the periodic table, some patterns emerge. Generally, nonmetals have more positive Eea than metals. Atoms whose anions are more stable than neutral atoms have a greater Eea. Chlorine most strongly attracts extra electrons; mercury most weakly attracts an extra electron. The electron affinities of the noble gases have not been conclusively measured, so they may or may not have slightly negative values.
Eea generally increases across a period (row) in the periodic table. This is caused by the filling of the valence shell of the atom; a group 7A atom releases more energy than a group 1A atom on gaining an electron because it obtains a filled valence shell and therefore is more stable.
A trend of decreasing Eea going down the groups in the periodic table would be expected. The additional electron will be entering an orbital farther away from the nucleus. Since this electron is farther from the nucleus it is less attracted to the nucleus and would release less energy when added. However, a clear counterexample to this trend can be found in group 2A, and this trend only applies to group 1A atoms. Electron affinity follows the trend of electronegativity. Fluorine (F) has a higher electron affinity than oxygen and so on.
The following data are quoted in kJ/mol. Elements marked with an asterisk are expected to have electron affinities close to zero on quantum mechanical grounds.
|† Lanthanides|| La
|‡ Actinides|| Ac
Molecular electron affinities
The electron affinity of molecules is a complicated function of their electronic structure. For instance the electron affinity for benzene is negative, as is that of naphthalene, while those of anthracene, phenanthrene and pyrene are positive. In silico experiments show that the electron affinity of hexacyanobenzene surpasses that of fullerene.
Electron affinity of surfaces
The electron affinity measured from a material's surface is a function of the bulk material as well as the surface condition. Often negative electron affinity is desired to obtain efficient cathodes that can supply electrons to the vacuum with little energy loss. The observed electron yield as a function of various parameters such as bias voltage or illumination conditions can be used to describe these structures with band diagrams in which the electron affinity is one parameter. For one illustration of the apparent effect of surface termination on electron emission, see Figure 3 in Marchywka Effect.
- Electron–capture mass spectrometry
- Koopmans' theorem
- One-electron reduction
- Ionization energy
- Valence electron
- Work function
- Marchywka Effect
- Vacuum level
- Electron donor
- Nic, M.; Jirat, J.; Kosata, B., eds. (2006–). "Electron affinity". IUPAC Compendium of Chemical Terminology (Online ed.). doi:10.1351/goldbook.E01977. ISBN 0-9678550-9-8. Check date values in:
- Robert S.Mulliken, Journal of Chemical Physics, 1934, 2, 782.
- Modern Physical Organic Chemistry, Eric V. Anslyn and Dennis A. Dougherty, University Science Books, 2006, ISBN 978-1-891389-31-3
- Festkörperphysik. Einführung in die Grundlagen, Harald Ibach, Hans Lüth, Springer, Berlin, 1999, 5.th edition
- Chemical Principles the Quest for Insight, Peter Atkins and Loretta Jones, Freeman, New York, 2010 ISBN 978-1-4292-1955-6
- Remarkable electron accepting properties of the simplest benzenoid cyanocarbons: hexacyanobenzene, octacyanonaphthalene and decacyanoanthracene Xiuhui Zhang, Qianshu Li, Justin B. Ingels, Andrew C. Simmonett, Steven E. Wheeler, Yaoming Xie, R. Bruce King, Henry F. Schaefer III and F. Albert Cotton Chemical Communications, 2006, 758 - 760 Abstract
- Tro, Nivaldo J. (2008). Chemistry: A Molecular Approach (2nd Edn.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-100065-9. pp. 348–349.