Archive for the ‘crystal_structure_mining’ Category

Fascinating stereoelectronic control in Metaldehyde and Chloral.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Metaldehyde is an insecticide used to control slugs. When we unsuccessfully tried to get some recently, I discovered it is now deprecated in the UK. So my immediate reaction was to look up its structure to see if that cast any light (below, R=CH3, shown as one stereoisomer).


The first ever curly arrows. Revisited with some crystal structure mining.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

With the current global lockdown, and students along with everyone else staying at home, I have noticed some old posts of mine are getting more attention than normal. One of these is an analysis I did in 2012 of Robinson’s original curly arrow illustration.[1] That and the fact that I am about to give a lecture on what I call my autobiographical journey discovering them, to our own students here (remotely of course), has prompted me to revisit my original discussion.



  1. "Forthcoming events", Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, vol. 43, pp. 1295-1298, 1924.

The strongest bond in the universe: A crystallographic reality check?

Monday, May 25th, 2020

My previous two posts on the topic of strongest bonds have involved mono and diprotonating N2 and using quantum mechanics to predict the effect this has on the N-N bond via its length and vibrational stetching mode. Such species are very unlikely to be easily observed for verification. But how about a metal M+ instead of H+? It turns out that structures containing the fragment Ru-N≡N-Ru are a small but well studied class of organometallic. Here is a search of the CSD crystal database for this motif.


A molecular sponge for hydrogen storage- the future for road transport?

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

In the news this week is a report of a molecule whose crystal lattice is capable of both storing and releasing large amounts of hydrogen gas at modest pressures and temperatures. Thus “NU-1501-Al” can absorb 14 weight% of hydrogen. To power a low-polluting car with a 500 km range, about 4-5 kg of hydrogen gas would be need to be stored and released safely. The molecule is of interest since it opens a systematic strategy of synthetically driven optimisation towards a viable ultra-porous storage material,[1] much like a lead drug compound can be optimised.



  1. Z. Chen, P. Li, R. Anderson, X. Wang, X. Zhang, L. Robison, L.R. Redfern, S. Moribe, T. Islamoglu, D.A. Gómez-Gualdrón, T. Yildirim, J.F. Stoddart, and O.K. Farha, "Balancing volumetric and gravimetric uptake in highly porous materials for clean energy", Science, vol. 368, pp. 297-303, 2020.

Choreographing a chemical ballet: a story of the mechanism of 1,4-Michael addition.

Monday, April 13th, 2020

A reaction can be thought of as molecular dancers performing moves. A choreographer is needed to organise the performance into the ballet that is a reaction mechanism. Here I explore another facet of the Michael addition of a nucleophile to a conjugated carbonyl compound. The performers this time are p-toluene thiol playing the role of nucleophile, adding to but-2-enal (green) acting as the electrophile and with either water or ammonia serving the role of a catalytic base to help things along.


Molecules of the year 2019: Hexagonal planar crystal structures.

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Here is another selection from the Molecules-of-the-Year shortlist published by C&E News, in which hexagonal planar transition metal coordination is identified. This was a mode of metal coordination first mooted more than 100 years ago,[1] but with the first examples only being discovered recently. The C&E News example comprises a central palladium atom surrounded by three hydride and three magnesium atoms, all seven atoms being in the same plane.



  1. M. Garçon, C. Bakewell, G.A. Sackman, A.J.P. White, R.I. Cooper, A.J. Edwards, and M.R. Crimmin, "A hexagonal planar transition-metal complex", Nature, vol. 574, pp. 390-393, 2019.

Can a carbon radical act as a hydrogen bond acceptor?

Saturday, December 28th, 2019

Having shown that carbon as a carbene centre, C: can act as a hydrogen bond acceptor, as seen from a search of crystal structures, I began to wonder if there is any chance that carbon as a radical centre, C could do so as well. Definitely a subversive thought, since radical centres are supposed to abstract hydrogens rather than to hydrogen bond to them.


CH…O hydrogen bonding competing with layered dispersion attractions.

Friday, July 19th, 2019

I have previously looked at the topic of hydrogen bonding interactions from the hydrogen of chloroform Here I generalize C-H…O interactions by conducting searches of the CSD (Cambridge structure database) as a function of the carbon hybridisation. I am going to jump straight to a specific molecule XEVJIR (DOI: 10.5517/cc5fgpq) identified from the searches appended to this post as interesting for further inspection.[1]



  1. K.S. Huang, M.J. Haddadin, M.M. Olmstead, and M.J. Kurth, "Synthesis and Reactions of Some Heterocyclic Azacyanines1", The Journal of Organic Chemistry, vol. 66, pp. 1310-1315, 2001.

The shortest known CF…HO hydrogen bond.

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

There is a predilection amongst chemists for collecting records; one common theme is the length of particular bonds, either the shortest or the longest. A particularly baffling type of bond is that between the very electronegative F atom and an acid hydrogen atom such as that in OH. Thus short C-N…HO hydrogen bonds are extremely common, as are C-O…HO. But F atoms in C-F bonds are largely thought to be inert to hydrogen bonding, as indicated by the use of fluorine in many pharmaceuticals as inert isosteres.[1] Here I do an up-to-date search of the CSD crystal structure database, which is now on the verge of accumulating 1 million entries, to see if any strong C-F…HO hydrogen bonding may have been recently discovered.



  1. S. Purser, P.R. Moore, S. Swallow, and V. Gouverneur, "Fluorine in medicinal chemistry", Chem. Soc. Rev., vol. 37, pp. 320-330, 2008.

How FAIR are the data associated with the 2017 Molecules-of-the-Year?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

C&EN has again run a vote for the 2017 Molecules of the year. Here I take a look not just at these molecules, but at how FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) the data associated with these molecules actually is.