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Tambornino, Frank; Sappl, Jonathan; Pultar, Felix; Cong, Trung Minh; Hübner, Sabine; Giftthaler, Tobias; Hoch, Constantin (2016): Electrocrystallization: A Synthetic Method for Intermetallic Phases with Polar Metal-Metal Bonding. In: Inorganic Chemistry, Vol. 55, No. 21: pp. 11551-11559
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Isothermal electrolysis is a convenient preparation technique for a large number of intermetallic phases. A solution of the salt of a less-noble metal is electrolyzed on a cathode consisting of a liquid metal or intermetallic system. This yields crystalline products at mild reaction conditions in a few hours. We show the aptness and the limitations of this approach. First, we give an introduction into the relevance of electrolytic synthesis for chemistry. Then we present materials and techniques our group has developed for electrocrystallization that are useful for electrochemical syntheses in general. Subsequently, we discuss different phase formation eventualities and propose basic rationalization concepts, illustrated with examples from our work. The scope of this report is to present electrocrystallization as a well-known yet underestimated synthetic process, especially in intermetallic chemistry. For this purpose we adduce literature examples (Li3Ga14, NaGa4, K8Ga8Sn38), technical advice, basic concepts, and new crystal structures only available by this method: Li3Ga13Sn and CsIn12. Electrocrystallization has recently proven especially helpful in our work concerning synthesis of intermetallic phases with polar metal-metal bonding, especially Hg-rich amalgams of less-noble metals. With the term "polar metal-metal bonding" we describe phases where the constituting elements have large electronegativity difference and yet show incomplete electron transfer from the less-noble to the nobler metal. This distinguishes polar intermetallic phases from classical Zintl phases where the electron transfer is virtually complete. Polar metallic phases can show "bad metal behavior" and interesting combinations of ionic and metallic properties. Amalgams of less-noble metals are preeminent representatives for this class of intermetallic phases as Hg is the only noble metal with endothermic electron affinity and thus a very low tendency toward anion formation. To illustrate both the aptness of the electrocrystallization process and our interest in polar metals in the above-mentioned sense, we present amalgams but also Hg-free intermetallics.