Theoretical definition of a functional group and the molecular orbital paradigm

Richard Frederick William Bader, Paul Lode Albert Popelier, Todd Alan Keith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    It is the purpose of this review to demonstrate that the empirical classification of the observations of chemistry in terms of the properties assigned to functional groups is a consequence of and is predicted by physics. This is accomplished by showing that the atoms and functional groups of chemistry can be identified with bounded space-filling objects whose properties are defined by quantum mechanics. The quantum mechanical definition of a group is combined with a new pictorial representation of its form to obtain a unified picture which should make it eminently recognizable to chemists. This picture, when combined with the demonstrated ability of these groups to recover the measured properties of atoms in molecules, is offered as one which meets the expectations a chemist associates with the concept of a functional group. The manner in which this physical definition of a group differs fundamentally from models of functional groups based upon molecular orbital theory is discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)620-631
    Number of pages11
    JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1994


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