Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

July 25, 2018

A Theoretical Method for Distinguishing X‐H Bond Activation Mechanisms.

Consider the four reactions. The first two are taught in introductory organic chemistry as (a) a proton transfer, often abbreviated PT, from X to B (a base) and (b) a hydride transfer from X to A (an acid). The third example is taught as a hydrogen atom transfer or HAT from X to (in this example) O. Recently an article has appeared[1] citing an example of a fourth fundamental type (d), which is given the acronym cPCET which I will expand later. Here I explore this last type a bit further, in the context that X-H bond activations are currently a very active area of research.



  1. J.E.M.N. Klein, and G. Knizia, "cPCET versus HAT: A Direct Theoretical Method for Distinguishing X-H Bond-Activation Mechanisms", Angewandte Chemie International Edition, vol. 57, pp. 11913-11917, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201805511

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!



  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 14, 2016

Hydronium hydroxide: the why of pH 7.

Ammonium hydroxide (NH4+…OH) can be characterised quantum mechanically when stabilised by water bridges connecting the ion-pairs. It is a small step from there to hydronium hydroxide, or H3O+…OH. The measured concentrations [H3O+] ≡ [OH] give rise of course to the well-known pH 7 of pure water, and converting this ionization constant to a free energy indicates that the solvated ion-pair must be some ~19.1 kcal/mol higher in free energy than water itself. So can a quantum calculation reproduce pH7 for water?


April 12, 2015

The mechanism of borohydride reductions. Part 1: ethanal.

Sodium borohydride is the tamer cousin of lithium aluminium hydride (LAH). It is used in aqueous solution to e.g. reduce aldehydes and ketones, but it leaves acids, amides and esters alone. Here I start an exploration of why it is such a different reducing agent.


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