Thermodynamic hardness and the maximum hardness principle
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An alternative definition of hardness (called the thermodynamic hardness) within the grand canonical ensemble formalism is proposed in terms of the partial derivative of the electronic chemical potential with respect to the thermodynamic chemical potential of the reservoir, keeping the temperature and the external potential constant. This temperature dependent definition may be interpreted as a measure of the propensity of a system to go through a charge transfer process when it interacts with other species, and thus it keeps the philosophy of the original definition. When the derivative is expressed in terms of the three-state ensemble model, in the regime of low temperatures and up to temperatures of chemical interest, one finds that for zero fractional charge, the thermodynamic hardness is proportional to T-1(I-A), where I is the first ionization potential, A is the electron affinity, and T is the temperature. However, the thermodynamic hardness is nearly zero when the fractional charge is different from zero. Thus, through the present definition, one avoids the presence of the Dirac delta function. We show that the chemical hardness defined in this way provides meaningful and discernible information about the hardness properties of a chemical species exhibiting integer or a fractional average number of electrons, and this analysis allowed us to establish a link between the maximum possible value of the hardness here defined, with the minimum softness principle, showing that both principles are related to minimum fractional charge and maximum stability conditions.
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