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Proc. of 5th Int. Symposium on ASR-WYP-2005 – Advances in the Physics and Chemistry of Actinide Compounds –
Probing the Bonding and Electronic Nature of Actinides Using Pressure
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, P.O. Box 2008, MS 6375, Oak Ridge TN, U.S.A.
An important issue in actinide science is the changing role of the 5f electrons, both when progressing from element to element across the series and how experimental variables affect their roles in the elements' chemistries and physics. It has been established that the function of these 5f electrons can often be changed by experimental conditions. For instance, we have found that the 5f electrons of several actinide metals, their alloys and compounds are affected greatly by pressure, due to the very large decreases in interatomic distances that can occur. The latter bring about significant changes in the energy levels, and the potential for overlap or hybridization of electronic orbitals. These changes in electronic behavior and configuration for the f-elements for crystalline solids under pressure can be monitored via X-ray diffraction using correlations established between bonding and the structure exhibited. Evaluation of these changes provides unique insights into the bonding behavior of the f-elements. In contrast to the elements, observed structural changes with pressure with compounds may not be linked directly to the involvement of 5f electrons. For compounds, this is due in part to the presence and bonding role of non-actinide atoms, which affect both interatomic distances as well as the type of electronic orbitals that can interact. Some recent experimental findings together with results from theoretical computations allow important new insights to be gained into changes in electronic configurations and bonding for the actinide elements under pressure. These findings also afford correlations with regard to the elements' positions in the 5f series. The impact, present electronic interpretations and the implications of the data from these studies are discussed here, both from a standpoint of experimental studies and the theoretical work that have been done. In addition, some potential future thrusts in high-pressure research for additional insight into 5f electron science are also discussed.
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