An elementary derivation of the hard/soft-acid/base principle
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The hard/soft-acid/base (HSAB) principle indicates that hard acids prefer binding to hard bases (often forming bonds with substantial ionic character) while soft acids prefer binding to soft bases (often forming bonds with substantial covalent character). Though the HSAB principle is a foundational concept of the modern theory of acids and bases, the theoretical underpinnings of the HSAB principle remain murky. This paper examines the exchange reaction, wherein two molecules, one the product of reacting a hard acid and a soft base and the other the product of reacting a soft acid with a hard base, exchange substituents to form the preferred hard-hard and soft-soft product. A simple derivation shows that this reaction is exothermic, proving the validity of the HSAB principle. The analysis leads to the simple and conceptually appealing conclusion that the HSAB principle is a driven by simple electron transfer effects.
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