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Acta Crystallogr B. 2004 Apr;60(Pt 2):155-62. Epub 2004 Mar 18.

The surprisingly elusive crystal structure of sodium metabisulfite.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA.


The crystal structure of Na2S2O5, a simple and common ionic compound, is reported here for the first time. The crystals form non-merohedral twins, with the twin domains related by a twofold axis which bisects the angle between the a and c axes of each unit cell. The structure was determined from a single-crystal fragment of a twinned crystal that had undergone cleavage along the twin boundary. In addition to the problems associated with twinning, space-group determination proved difficult as well, with the structure initially determined in the P2(1) space group appearing to be disordered with two rotational conformers of the metabisulfite ion occupying equivalent sites in the lattice. An analysis at low temperature provided new weak reflections which were inconsistent with the original unit cell, but indexed to the correct unit cell, allowing for space group and crystal structure determination. The apparent structure, which appeared disordered in P2(1), seems to have resulted from an apparently fortuitous superposition of two conformationally inequivalent S2O5(2-) anions in the asymmetric unit of the correct structure in the P2(1)/n space group. The metabisulfite ions in this structure do not adopt the C(s) geometry observed in previously determined crystal structures containing S2O5(2-). The structures of both ions in the asymmetric unit are effectively conformational mirror images of one another with two of the O atoms on each S atom in the ion approaching an eclipsed geometry. This observation provides further evidence that the structures of sulfur-oxy anions in the solid state are dictated mainly by interionic coulombic forces rather than by intraionic bonding interactions.


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