Visualization of Electron Density Changes Along Chemical Reaction Pathways

10 May 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


We propose a simple procedure for visualizing the electron density changes (EDC) during a chemical reaction, which is based on a mapping of rectangular grid points for a stationary structure into (distorted) positions around atoms of another stationary structure. Specifically, during a small step along the minimum energy pathway (MEP), the displacement of each grid point is obtained as a linear combination of the motion of all atoms, with the contribution from each atom scaled by the corresponding Hirshfeld weight. For several reactions (identity SN2, Claisen rearrangement, Diels-Alder reaction, [3+2] cycloaddition, and phenylethyl mercaptan attack on pericosine A), our EDC plots showed an expected reduction of electron densities around severed bonds (or those with the bond-order lowered), with the opposite observed for newly-formed or enhanced chemical bonds. The EDC plots were also shown for copper triflate catalyzed N2O fragmentation, where the N–O bond weakening initially occurred on a singlet surface, but continued on a triplet surface after reaching the minimum-energy crossing point (MECP) between the two potential energy surfaces.


chemical reactions
electron density
reaction pathway
density functional theory
spin-crossing reactions


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