Structural Studies of Ammonia and Metallic Lithium-Ammonia Solutions

The technique of hydrogen/deuterium isotopic substitution has been used to extract detailed information concerning the solvent structure in pure ammonia and metallic lithium-ammonia solutions. In pure ammonia we find evidence for approximately 2.0 hydrogen bonds around each central nitrogen atom, with an average N-H distance of 2.4 Å. On addition of alkali metal, we observe directly significant disruption of this hydrogen bonding. At 8 mol % metal there remains only around 0.7 hydrogen bond per nitrogen atom. This value decreases to 0.0 for the saturated solution of 21 mol % metal, as all ammonia molecules have then become incorporated into the tetrahedral first solvation spheres of the lithium cations. In conjunction with a classical three-dimensional computer modeling technique, we are now able to identify a well-defined second cationic solvation shell. In this secondary shell the nitrogen atoms tend to reside above the faces and edges of the primary tetrahedral shell. Furthermore, the computer-generated models reveal that on addition of alkali metal the solvent molecules form voids of approximate radius 2.5-3.0 Å. Our data therefore provide new insight into the structure of the polaronic cavities and tunnels, which have been theoretically predicted for lithium-ammonia solutions.

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