Using a polar bond to flip the (stereochemical) outcome of a pericyclic reaction.

August 4th, 2014

The outcome of pericyclic reactions con depend most simply on three conditions, any two of which determine the third. Whether the catalyst is Δ or hν (heat or light), the topology determining any stereochemistry and the participating electron count (4n+2/4n). It is always neat to conjure up a simple switch to toggle these; heat or light is simple, but what are the options for toggling the electron count? Here is one I have contrived by playing a game with the periodic table. divinylketon The ring closure of a divinylketone is called the Nazarov reaction, it being promoted thermodynamically by coordination of a Lewis acid to atom X. Divinyl ketone can be regarded as a hidden pentadienyl cation, since the C=O bond is polarised Cδ+Oδ- in the time-honoured manner of organic chemistry. In this (formal) resonance form, it becomes part of a pentadienyl cation and can electrocyclise via a 4-electron reaction involving a stereochemical process known as conrotation. The new bond is formed antarafacially (from opposite faces) at the termini of the pentadienyl cation (ωB97XD/6-311G(d,p)/SCRF=dichloromethane.[1]). Note that for the uncatalysed reaction, the barrier is high and the reaction is endothermic but adding a BF3 to the oxygen lowers the barrier and removes the endothermicity.[2] nazarov-Oa nazarov-Oa nazarov-OBF3 So, one can play a game and ask what would happen if the polarity of the C=X bond were to be reversed. This means going left of oxygen in the periodic table, ending at Be.[3] The reaction has a high barrier, but it is strongly exothermic. However the most noteworthy aspect is that the stereochemistry of the electrocyclisation is now disrotatory, with suprafacial bond formation (from the bottom face in the animation below). The stereochemical outcome of this reaction has been flipped by reversing the polarity of the CX bond. nazarov-Beanazarov-Bea This little example shows how a thought game played using the periodic table can then be reality tested by solving appropriate quantum mechanical equations. In this instance, one is not going to rush into the laboratory to try to replicate the experiment, but it might help catalyse new thoughts amongst the readers of this blog.

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References

  1. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C5H6O", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1125721
  2. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C5H6BF3O", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1125724
  3. Henry S. Rzepa., "Gaussian Job Archive for C5H6Be", 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1125792

Data nightmares: B40 and counting its π-electrons

July 19th, 2014

Whilst clusters of carbon atoms are well-known, my eye was caught by a recent article describing the detection of a cluster of boron atoms, B40 to be specific.[1] My interest was in how the σ and π-electrons were partitioned. In a C40, one can reliably predict that each carbon would contribute precisely one π-electron. But boron, being more electropositive, does not always play like that. Having one electron less per atom, one might imagine that a fullerene-like boron cluster would have no π-electrons. But the element has a propensity[2] to promote its σ-electrons into the π-manifold, leaving a σ-hole. So how many π-electrons does B40 have? These sorts of clusters are difficult to build using regular structure editors, and so coordinates are essential. The starting point for a set of coordinates with which to compute a wavefunction was the supporting information. Here is the relevant page: B401 The coordinates are certainly there (that is not always the case), but you have to know a few tricks to make them usable.

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References

  1. H. Zhai, Y. Zhao, W. Li, Q. Chen, H. Bai, H. Hu, Z.A. Piazza, W. Tian, H. Lu, Y. Wu, Y. Mu, G. Wei, Z. Liu, J. Li, S. Li, and L. Wang, "Observation of an all-boron fullerene", Nature Chem, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchem.1999
  2. H.S. Rzepa, "The distortivity of π-electrons in conjugated boron rings", Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., vol. 11, pp. 10042, 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/B911817A

Why is mercury a liquid at room temperatures?

July 12th, 2014

Computational quantum chemistry has made fantastic strides in the last 30 years. Often deep insight into all sorts of questions regarding reactions and structures of molecules has become possible. But sometimes the simplest of questions can prove incredibly difficult to answer. One such is how accurately can the boiling point of water be predicted from first principles? Or its melting point? Another classic case is why mercury is a liquid at room temperatures? The answer to that question (along with another, why is gold the colour it is?) is often anecdotally attributed to Einstein. More accurately, to his special theory of relativity.[1] But finally in 2013 a computational proof of this was demonstrated for mercury.[2] The proof was built up in three stages.

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References

  1. A. Einstein, "Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?", Ann. Phys., vol. 323, pp. 639-641, 1905. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/andp.19053231314
  2. F. Calvo, E. Pahl, M. Wormit, and P. Schwerdtfeger, "Evidence for Low-Temperature Melting of Mercury owing to Relativity", Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., vol. 52, pp. 7583-7585, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201302742

The 5σ-confidence level: how much chemistry achieves this?

July 5th, 2014

I was lucky enough to attend the announcement made in 2012 of the discovery of the Higgs Boson. It consisted of a hour-long talk mostly about statistics, and how the particle physics community can only claim a discovery when their data has achieved a 5σ confidence level. This represents a 1 in 3.5 million probability of the result occurring by chance. I started thinking: how much chemistry is asserted at that level of confidence? Today, I read Steve Bachrach’s post on the structure of Citrinalin B and how “use of Goodman’s DP4 method indicates a 100% probability that the structure of citrinalin B is (the structure below)”. Wow, that is even higher than the physicists. Of course, 100% has been obtained by rounding 99.7 (3σ is 99.73%) or whatever (this is one number that should never be so rounded!). pc But there was one aspect of this that I did want to have a confidence level for; the absolute configuration of citrinalin B. Reading the article Steve quotes[1], one sees this aspect is attributed to ref 5[2], dating from 2005. There the configuration was assigned on the basis of “comparison of the electronic circular dichroism (ECD) spectra for 1 and 2 with those of known spirooxiindole alkaloids“. However, this method can fail[3]. Also, one finds “comparison of the vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectra of 1 with those of model compounds[2]. Nowadays, one would say that there is no need for model compounds, why not measure and compute the VCD of the actual compound? Even a determination using the Flack crystallographic method can occasionally be wrong![4]. Which leads to asking what typical confidence levels might be for these three techniques, and indeed whether improving instrumentation means that the confidence level gets higher with time. OK, I am going to guess these.

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References

  1. E.V. Mercado-Marin, P. Garcia-Reynaga, S. Romminger, E.F. Pimenta, D.K. Romney, M.W. Lodewyk, D.E. Williams, R.J. Andersen, S.J. Miller, D.J. Tantillo, R.G.S. Berlinck, and R. Sarpong, "Total synthesis and isolation of citrinalin and cyclopiamine congeners", Nature, vol. 509, pp. 318-324, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13273
  2. T. Mugishima, M. Tsuda, Y. Kasai, H. Ishiyama, E. Fukushi, J. Kawabata, M. Watanabe, K. Akao, and J. Kobayashi, "Absolute Stereochemistry of Citrinadins A and B from Marine-Derived Fungus", J. Org. Chem., vol. 70, pp. 9430-9435, 2005. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jo051499o
  3. F. Cherblanc, Y. Lo, E. De Gussem, L. Alcazar-Fuoli, E. Bignell, Y. He, N. Chapman-Rothe, P. Bultinck, W.A. Herrebout, R. Brown, H.S. Rzepa, and M.J. Fuchter, "On the Determination of the Stereochemistry of Semisynthetic Natural Product Analogues using Chiroptical Spectroscopy: Desulfurization of Epidithiodioxopiperazine Fungal Metabolites", Chemistry - A European Journal, vol. 17, pp. 11868-11875, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.201101129
  4. F.L. Cherblanc, Y. Lo, W.A. Herrebout, P. Bultinck, H.S. Rzepa, and M.J. Fuchter, "Mechanistic and Chiroptical Studies on the Desulfurization of Epidithiodioxopiperazines Reveal Universal Retention of Configuration at the Bridgehead Carbon Atoms", J. Org. Chem., vol. 78, pp. 11646-11655, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jo401316a

The price of information: Evaluating big deal journal bundles

July 3rd, 2014

Increasingly, our access to scientific information is becoming a research topic in itself. Thus an analysis of big deal journal bundles[1] has attracted much interesting commentary (including one from a large scientific publisher[2]). In the UK, our funding councils have been pro-active in promoting the so-called GOLD publishing model, where the authors (aided by grants from their own institution or others) pay the perpetual up-front publication costs (more precisely the costs demanded by the publishers, which is not necessarily the same thing) so that their article is removed from the normal subscription pay wall erected by the publisher and becomes accessible to anyone. As the proportion of GOLD content increases, it was anticipated (hoped?) that the costs of accessing the remaining non-GOLD articles via a pay-walled subscription would decrease.

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References

  1. T.C. Bergstrom, P.N. Courant, R.P. McAfee, and M.A. Williams, "Evaluating big deal journal bundles", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, pp. 9425-9430, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1403006111
  2. C. Woolston, "Secret publishing deals exposed", Nature, vol. 510, pp. 447-447, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/510447f

Amides and inverting the electronics of the Bürgi–Dunitz trajectory.

June 26th, 2014

The Bürgi–Dunitz angle describes the trajectory of an approaching nucleophile towards the carbon atom of a carbonyl group. A colleague recently came to my office to ask about the inverse, that is what angle would an electrophile approach (an amide)? Thus it might approach either syn or anti with respect to the nitrogen, which is a feature not found with nucleophilic attack. amide My first thought was to calculate the wavefunction and identify the location and energy (= electrophilicity) of the lone pairs (the presumed attractor of an electrophile). But a better more direct approach soon dawned. A search of the crystal structure database. Here is the search definition, with the C=O-E angle, the O-E distance and the N-C=O-E torsion defined (also specified for R factor < 5%, no errors and no disorder). search   The first plot is of the torsion vs the distance, for E = H-X (X=O,F, Cl) amides

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Anchoring chemistry.

June 18th, 2014

I was reminded of this article by Michelle Francl[1], where she poses the question “What anchor values would most benefit students as they seek to hone their chemical intuition?” She gives as common examples: room temperature is 298.17K (actually 300K, but perhaps her climate is warmer than that of the UK!), the length of a carbon-carbon single bond, the atomic masses of the more common elements.

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References

  1. M. Francl, "Take a number", Nature Chem, vol. 5, pp. 725-726, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchem.1733

Test of JSmol in WordPress: the background story.

June 8th, 2014

A word of explanation about this test page for experimenting with JSmol. Many moons ago I posted about how to include a generated 3D molecular model in a blog post, and have used that method on many posts here ever since. It relied on Java as the underlying software (first introduced in 1996), or almost 20 years ago. Like most software technologies, much has changed, and Java itself (as a compiled language) has had to move to improve its underlying security. In the last year, the Java code itself (in this case Jmol) has needed to be digitally signed in a standard manner, and this meant that many an old site that used unsigned older versions has started to throw up increasingly alarming messages.

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Kekulé’s vibration: A modern example of its use.

June 6th, 2014

Following the discussion here of Kekulé’s suggestion of what we now call a vibrational mode (and which in fact now bears his name), I thought I might apply the concept to a recent molecule known as [2.2]paracyclophane. The idea was sparked by Steve Bachrach’s latest post, where the “zero-point” structure of the molecule has recently been clarified as having D2 symmetry.[1]

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References

  1. H. Wolf, D. Leusser, . Mads R. V. Jørgensen, R. Herbst-Irmer, Y. Chen, E. Scheidt, W. Scherer, B.B. Iversen, and D. Stalke, "Phase Transition of [2,2]-Paracyclophane - An End to an Apparently Endless Story", Chemistry - A European Journal, vol. 20, pp. 7048-7053, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.201304972

Benzene: an oscillation or a vibration?

May 28th, 2014

In the preceding post, a nice discussion broke out about Kekulé’s 1872 model for benzene.[1] This model has become known as the oscillation hypothesis between two extreme forms of benzene (below). The discussion centered around the semantics of the term oscillation compared to vibration (a synonym or not?) and the timescale implied by each word. The original article is in german, but more significantly, obtainable only with difficulty. Thus I cannot access[1] the article directly since my university does not have the appropriate “back-number” subscription. So it was with delight that I tracked down an English translation in a journal that I could easily access.[2] Here I discuss what I found (on pages 614-615, the translation does not have its own DOI).

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References

  1. A. Kekulé, "Ueber einige Condensationsproducte des Aldehyds", Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie, vol. 162, pp. 77-124, 1872. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jlac.18721620110
  2. "Organic chemistry", J. Chem. Soc., vol. 25, pp. 605, 1872. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/JS8722500605