The quaternary phase Ca5Mg0.95Ag1.05(1)Ge5 (3) was synthesized by high-temperature solid-state techniques, and its crystal structure was determined by single-crystal diffraction methods in the orthorhombic space group Pnma – Wyckoff sequence c12 with a = 23.1481(4) Å, b = 4.4736(1) Å, c = 11.0128(2) Å, V = 1140.43(4) Å3, Z = 4. The crystal structure can be described as linear intergrowths of slabs cut from the CaGe (CrB-type) and the CaMGe (TiNiSi-type; M = Mg, Ag) structures. Hence, 3 is a hettotype of the hitherto missing n = 3 member of the structure series with the general formula R2+nT2X2+n, previously described with n = 1, 2, and 4. The member with n = 3 was predicted in the space group Cmcm – Wyckoff sequence f5c2. The experimental space group Pnma (in the nonstandard setting Pmcn) corresponds to a klassengleiche symmetry reduction of index two of the predicted space group Cmcm. This transition originates from the switching of one Ge and one Ag position in the TiNiSi-related slab, a process that triggers an uncoupling of each of the five 8f sites in Cmcm into two 4c sites in Pnma. The Mg/Ag site preference was investigated using VASP calculations and revealed a remarkable example of an intermetallic compound for which the electrostatic valency principle is a critical structure-directing force. The compound is deficient by one valence electron according to the Zintl concept, but LMTO electronic structure calculations indicate electronic stabilization and overall bonding optimization in the polyanionic network. Other stability factors beyond the Zintl concept that may account for the electronic stabilization are discussed.
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