The reaction mechanism underlying the photoinduced linkage isomerization of discrete arsenic-sulfur clusters in the realgar form of tetraarsenic tetrasulfide (α-As4S4) to its pararealgar form was studied on a natural specimen of the mineral with a combination of in situ single-crystal X-ray photodiffraction and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The photodiffraction technique provided direct atomic resolution evidence of formation of intermediate As4S5 phase in which half of the realgar molecule is retained in its envelope-type conformation, while the other half is transformed by effective switching of positions of one sulfur and one arsenic atom. The initiation and propagation stages of the process are studied under light and dark conditions, during and after photoexcitation with polychromatic visible light. In the "light" reaction stage, the interatomic and cell parameters averaged over the crystal volume and photoexcitation time remain almost unchanged. The residual electron density features are indicative for formation of a small amount of As 4S5 clusters, which at this stage do not affect the overall crystalline order. In the "dark" reaction stage, a set of self-sustainable autocatalytic reactions results in strong and nearly isotropic expansion of the unit cell. The structure in the dark stage represents direct evidence of formation of pararealgar which was obtained in yield of about 5% in the single crystal of realgar. The cell expansion is due to increased mole ratio of clusters of pararealgar relative to realgar and to increased intercluster separation. Due to lattice incompatibility, a higher content of the product results in progressive decrease of crystal quality. Creation of small amount of arsenolite (As2O3) which appears as byproduct in the light stage and remains unreacted in the product mixture was confirmed by far-IR spectroscopy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Inorganic Chemistry