The 6Π electronic ground state of the Co 2 + diatomic molecular cation has been assigned experimentally by x-ray absorption and x-ray magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy in a cryogenic ion trap. Three candidates, 6Φ, 8Φ, and 8Γ, for the electronic ground state of Fe 2 + have been identified. These states carry sizable orbital angular momenta that disagree with theoretical predictions from multireference configuration interaction and density functional theory. Our results show that the ground states of neutral and cationic diatomic molecules of 3d transition elements cannot generally be assumed to be connected by a one-electron process.
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