This is another of those posts that has morphed from an earlier one noting the death of the great chemist George Olah. The discussion about the norbornyl cation concentrated on whether this species existed in a single minimum symmetric energy well (the non-classical Winstein/Olah proposal) or a double minimum well connected by a symmetric transition state (the classical Brown proposal). In a comment on the post, I added other examples in chemistry of single/double minima, mapped here to non-classical/classical structures. I now expand on the examples related to small aromatic or anti-aromatic rings.
Posts Tagged ‘antiaromaticity’
Cyclobutadiene is one of those small iconic molecules, the transience and instability of which was explained theoretically long before it was actually detected in 1965. Given that instability, I was intrigued as to how many crystal structures might have been reported for this ring system, along with the rather more stable congener cyclo-octatetraene. Here is what I found.
- L. Watts, J.D. Fitzpatrick, and R. Pettit, "Cyclobutadiene", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 87, pp. 3253-3254, 1965. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja01092a049
I noted briefly in discussing why Birch reduction of benzene gives 1,4-cyclohexadiene (diagram below) that the geometry of the end-stage pentadienyl anion was distorted in the presence of the sodium cation to favour this product. This distortion actually has some pedagogic value, and so I elaborate this here.
In a time when large (molecules) are considered beautiful (or the corollary that beauty must be big), it is good to reflect that small molecules may teach us something as well. Take ethane. Is there anything left which has not been said about it already? Well, consider the reaction below, in which two hydrogen atoms mutually hop from one carbon to the other.