Density-functional theory calculations were applied to molecular structure and complex formation reaction modelings of metal ion complexes with diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA) and its bisamide (DTPABA) chelates to understand the metal ions selectivity between Am and Eu. The calculated complexes with DTPA and DTPABA chelates reproduced the coordination geometries of experimental crystal structures. Calculated Gibbs free energies of the complex formation reactions indicated that Am ion forms higher stable complexes with both chelates than Eu ion, being consistent with the experimental results. The higher Am selectivity over Eu was suggested to originate in the larger bond overlap between Am 5f-orbital and N 2s, 2p-orbital. This mean that the covalent contribution between metal ion and donor atoms differentiates the complex formation stabilities, leading to the Am/Eu selectivity. We expect that this study contributes to systematize the origin of metal ions selectivity and to accelerate novel ligands exploration.
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