Posts Tagged ‘Chemistry’

Reaction coordinates vs Dynamic trajectories as illustrated by an example reaction mechanism.

Monday, March 20th, 2017
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The example a few posts back of how methane might invert its configuration by transposing two hydrogen atoms illustrated the reaction mechanism by locating a transition state and following it down in energy using an intrinsic reaction coordinate (IRC). Here I explore an alternative method based instead on computing a molecular dynamics trajectory (MD).

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Pyrophoric metals + the mechanism of thermal decomposition of magnesium oxalate.

Sunday, March 19th, 2017
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A pyrophoric metal is one that burns spontaneously in oxygen; I came across this phenomenon as a teenager doing experiments at home. Pyrophoric iron for example is prepared by heating anhydrous iron (II) oxalate in a sealed test tube (i.e. to 600° or higher). When the tube is broken open and the contents released, a shower of sparks forms. Not all metals do this; early group metals such as calcium undergo a different reaction releasing carbon monoxide and forming calcium carbonate and not the metal itself. Here as a prelude to the pyrophoric reaction proper, I take a look at this alternative mechanism using calculations.

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How does silane invert (its configuration)?

Thursday, March 16th, 2017
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In the previous post, I found intriguing the mechanism by which methane (CH4) inverts by transposing two of its hydrogens. Here I take a look at silane, SiH4.

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How does methane invert (its configuration)?

Thursday, March 16th, 2017
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This is a spin-off from the table I constructed here for further chemical examples of the classical/non-classical norbornyl cation conundrum. One possible entry would include the transition state for inversion of methane via a square planar geometry as compared with e.g. NiH4 for which the square planar motif is its minimum. So is square planar methane a true transition state for inversion (of configuration) of carbon?

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Expanding on the curious connection between the norbornyl cation and small-ring aromatics.

Sunday, March 12th, 2017
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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.

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George Olah and the norbornyl cation.

Friday, March 10th, 2017
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George Olah passed away on March 8th. He was part of the generation of scientists in the post-war 1950s who had access to chemical instrumentation that truly revolutionised chemistry. In particular he showed how the then newly available NMR spectroscopy illuminated structures of cations in solvents such “Magic acid“. The obituaries will probably mention his famous “feud” with H. C. Brown over the structure of the norbornyl cation (X=CH2+), implicated in the mechanism of many a solvolysis reaction that characterised the golden period of physical organic chemistry just before and after WWII. 

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Ammonium tetraphenylborate and the mystery of its π-facial hydrogen bonding.

Friday, March 10th, 2017
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A few years back, I did a post about the Pirkle reagent[1] and the unusual π-facial hydrogen bonding structure[2] it exhibits. For the Pirkle reagent, this bonding manifests as a close contact between the acidic OH hydrogen and the edge of a phenyl ring; the hydrogen bond is off-centre from the middle of the aryl ring. Here I update the topic, with a new search of the CSD (Cambridge structure database), but this time looking at the positional preference of that bond and whether it is on or off-centre. 

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References

  1. H.S. Rzepa, M.L. Webb, A.M.Z. Slawin, and D.J. Williams, "? Facial hydrogen bonding in the chiral resolving agent (S)-2,2,2-trifluoro-1-(9-anthryl)ethanol and its racemic modification", Journal of the Chemical Society, Chemical Communications, pp. 765, 1991. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c39910000765
  2. H.S. Rzepa, M.H. Smith, and M.L. Webb, "A crystallographic AM1 and PM3 SCF-MO investigation of strong OH ⋯π-alkene and alkyne hydrogen bonding interactions", J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 2, pp. 703-707, 1994. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/P29940000703

Stable “unstable” molecules: a crystallographic survey of cyclobutadienes and cyclo-octatetraenes.

Sunday, March 5th, 2017
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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.[1] 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.

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References

  1. 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

More tetrahedral fun. Spherical aromaticity (and other oddities) in N4 and C4 systems?

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
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The thread thus far. The post about Na2He introduced the electride anionic counter-ion to Na+ as corresponding topologically to a rare feature known as a non-nuclear attractor. This prompted speculation about other systems with such a feature, and the focus shifted to a tetrahedral arrangement of four hydrogen atoms as a dication, sharing a total of two valence electrons. The story now continues here.

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The H4 (2+) dication and its bonding.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
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This post arose from a comment attached to the post on Na2He and relating to peculiar and rare topological features of the electron density in molecules called non-nuclear attractors. This set me thinking about other molecules that might exhibit this and one of these is shown below.

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