Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

April 4, 2019

Smoke and mirrors. All is not what it seems with this Sn2 reaction!

Previously, I explored the Graham reaction to form a diazirine. The second phase of the reaction involved an Sn2′ displacement of N-Cl forming C-Cl. Here I ask how facile the simpler displacement of C-Cl by another chlorine might be and whether the mechanism is Sn2 or the alternative Sn1. The reason for posing this question is that as an Sn1 reaction, simply ionizing off the chlorine to form a diazacyclopropenium cation might be a very easy process. Why? Because the resulting cation is analogous to the cyclopropenium cation, famously proposed by Breslow as the first example of a 4n+2 aromatic ring for which the value of n is zero and not 1 as for benzene.[1] Another example of a famous “Sn1” reaction is the solvolysis of t-butyl chloride to form the very stable tertiary carbocation and chloride anion (except in fact that it is not an Sn1 reaction but an Sn2 one!)

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References

  1. R. Breslow, "SYNTHESIS OF THE s-TRIPHENYLCYCLOPROPENYL CATION", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 79, pp. 5318-5318, 1957. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja01576a067

March 24, 2019

The shortest known CF…HO hydrogen bond.

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.

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References

  1. S. Purser, P.R. Moore, S. Swallow, and V. Gouverneur, "Fluorine in medicinal chemistry", Chem. Soc. Rev., vol. 37, pp. 320-330, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/B610213C

February 16, 2018

Hypervalent Helium – not!

Last year, this article[1] attracted a lot of attention as the first example of molecular helium in the form of Na2He. In fact, the helium in this species has a calculated bond index of only 0.15 and it is better classified as a sodium electride with the ionisation induced by pressure and the presence of helium atoms. The helium is neither valent, nor indeed hypervalent (the meanings are in fact equivalent for this element). In a separate blog posted in 2013, I noted a cobalt carbonyl complex containing a hexacoordinate hydrogen in the form of hydride, H. A comment appended to this blog insightfully asked about the isoelectronic complex containing He instead of H. Here, rather belatedly, I respond to this comment!

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References

  1. X. Dong, A.R. Oganov, A.F. Goncharov, E. Stavrou, S. Lobanov, G. Saleh, G. Qian, Q. Zhu, C. Gatti, V.L. Deringer, R. Dronskowski, X. Zhou, V.B. Prakapenka, Z. Konôpková, I.A. Popov, A.I. Boldyrev, and H. Wang, "A stable compound of helium and sodium at high pressure", Nature Chemistry, vol. 9, pp. 440-445, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2716

March 19, 2017

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

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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February 14, 2017

VSEPR Theory: A closer look at bromine trifluoride, BrF3.

I analysed the bonding in chlorine trifluoride a few years back in terms of VSEPR theory. I noticed that several searches on this topic which led people to this post also included a query about the differences between it and the bromine analogue. For those who posed this question, here is an equivalent analysis.

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February 11, 2017

Na2He: a stable compound of helium and sodium at high pressure.

On February 6th I was alerted to this intriguing article[1] by a phone call, made 55 minutes before the article embargo was due to be released. Gizmodo wanted to know if I could provide an (almost) instant quote. After a few days, this report of a stable compound of helium and sodium still seems impressive to me and I now impart a few more thoughts here.

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References

  1. X. Dong, A.R. Oganov, A.F. Goncharov, E. Stavrou, S. Lobanov, G. Saleh, G. Qian, Q. Zhu, C. Gatti, V.L. Deringer, R. Dronskowski, X. Zhou, V.B. Prakapenka, Z. Konôpková, I.A. Popov, A.I. Boldyrev, and H. Wang, "A stable compound of helium and sodium at high pressure", Nature Chemistry, vol. 9, pp. 440-445, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2716

April 26, 2015

Allotropic halogens.

Allotropes are differing structural forms of the elements. The best known example is that of carbon, which comes as diamond and graphite, along with the relatively recently discovered fullerenes and now graphenes. Here I ponder whether any of the halogens can have allotropes.

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