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

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.

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  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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaz8881

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

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.

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A cascading tutorial in finding rich NMR data using the Datacite datasearch engine.

April 11th, 2020

In the previous post, I introduced three of a new generation of search engines specialising in the discovery of data. Data has some special features which make its properties slightly different from the conceptual (or natural language) searches we are used to performing for general information and so a search engine specifically for data is invariably going to reflect this. At the simplest level, the data search can retain much of the generic simplicity of a regular search, but to exploit the unique features of data, one really does have to move on to an advanced mode. Here, by introducing a set of search definitions that gradually increase in specificity and power, I hope to convey some of the flavour of one way in which this could be done.

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New generations of globally aggregating search engines – for (chemical) data.

April 7th, 2020

Chemists have long been familiar with search engines that aspire to index a large proportion of the chemical literature. Think for example the old-generation (and commercial) SciFinder (Scholar) and Reaxys or those that arrived in the 1990s in the online era such as the non-commercial Pubchem or ChemSpider (there are more). But you may not be as familiar with the latest generation of global search engines and here I will focus on three relatively new ones that specialise specifically in tracking down data rather than just publications.

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Substituent effects on the mechanism of Michael 1,4-Nucleophilic addition.

March 29th, 2020

In the previous post, I looked at the mechanism for 1,4-nucleophilic addition to an activated alkene (the Michael reaction). The model nucleophile was malonaldehyde after deprotonation and the model electrophile was acrolein (prop-2-enal), with the rate determining transition state being carbon-carbon bond formation between the two, accompanied by proton transfer to the oxygen of the acrolein.

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The mechanism of Michael 1,4-Nucleophilic addition: a computationally derived reaction pathway.

March 25th, 2020

In 2013, I created an iTunesU library of 115 mechanistic types in organic and organometallic chemistry, illustrated using video animations of the intrinsic reaction coordinate (IRC) computed using a high level quantum mechanical procedure. Many of those examples first derived from posts here. That collection  is still available and is viewable  in the iTunesU app on an iPhone or an iPad. The realisation struck me now that one of the types not described in that library was Michael-type 1,4-nucleophilic addition to an activated alkene, as described at Wikipedia. So here is that addition.

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The Persistent Identifier ecosystem expands – to instruments!

March 21st, 2020

A PID or persistent identifier has been in common use in scientific publishing for around 20 years now. It was introduced as a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), and the digital object in this case was the journal article. From 2000 onwards, DOIs started appearing for most journal articles, journals having obtained them from a registration agency, CrossRef. This is a not-for-profit organisation set up by a publishers association for the purpose. Most readers of journal articles started to use this DOI as an easier way of navigating through invariably different and sometimes confusing metaphors set up by any given journal to navigate through its issues. Readers slowly learnt to prepend the URL http://dx.doi.org/ to the DOI to “resolve” it directly to what is known as the “landing page” of the article. More recently, the prefix recommendation has changed to the slightly shorter https://doi.org/ form. Few readers are aware  however that the DOI can serve a much more interesting purpose than just taking you to the article landing page. This post will explore a few of these extras.

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The singlet and open shell higher-spin states of [4], [6] and [8]-annulenes and their Kekulé vibrational modes

March 11th, 2020

In 2001, Shaik and co-workers published the first of several famous review articles on the topic A Different Story of π-Delocalization. The Distortivity of π-Electrons and Its Chemical Manifestations[1]. The main premise was that the delocalized π-electronic component of benzene is unstable toward a localizing distortion and is at the same time stabilized by resonance relative to a localized reference structure.  Put more simply, the specific case of benzene has six-fold symmetry because of the twelve C-C σ-electrons and not the six π-electrons. In 2009, I commented here on this concept, via a calculation of the quintet state of benzene in which two of the six π-electrons are excited from bonding into anti-bonding π-orbitals, thus reducing the total formal π-bond orders around the ring from three to one. I focused on a particular vibrational normal mode, which is usefully referred to as the Kekulé mode, since it lengthens three bonds in benzene whilst shortening the other three. In this case the stretching wavenumber increased by ~207 cm-1 when the total π-bond order of benzene was reduced from three to one by spin excitation. In other words, each C-C bond gets longer when the π-electrons are excited, but the C-C bond itself gets stronger (in terms at least of the Kekulé mode). This behaviour is called a violation of Badger’s rule[2] for the relationship between the length of a bond and its stretching force constant. 

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  1. S. Shaik, A. Shurki, D. Danovich, and P.C. Hiberty, "A Different Story of π-DelocalizationThe Distortivity of π-Electrons and Its Chemical Manifestations†", Chemical Reviews, vol. 101, pp. 1501-1540, 2001. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/cr990363l
  2. R.M. Badger, "A Relation Between Internuclear Distances and Bond Force Constants", The Journal of Chemical Physics, vol. 2, pp. 128-131, 1934. http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.1749433

Encouraging Submission of FAIR Data at the Journal of Organic Chemistry and Organic Letters

February 14th, 2020

In a welcome move, one of the American chemical society journals has published an encouragement to submit what is called FAIR data to the journal.[1]. A reminder that FAIR data is data that can be Found (F), Accessed (A), Interoperated(I) and Re-used( R). I thought I might try to explore this new tool here.

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  1. A.M. Hunter, E.M. Carreira, and S.J. Miller, "Encouraging Submission of FAIR Data at The Journal of Organic Chemistry and Organic Letters", Organic Letters, vol. 22, pp. 1231-1232, 2020. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.orglett.0c00383

Molecules of the year 2019: Hexagonal planar crystal structures.

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.

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  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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1616-2