Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

November 4, 2018

Open Access journal publishing debates – the elephant in the room?

For perhaps ten years now, the future of scientific publishing has been hotly debated. The traditional models are often thought to be badly broken, although convergence to a consensus of what a better model should be is not apparently close. But to my mind, much of this debate seems to miss one important point, how to publish data.


March 10, 2017

George Olah and the norbornyl cation.

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. 


April 29, 2013

Why diphenyl peroxide does not exist.

A few posts back, I explored the “benzidine rearrangement” of diphenyl hydrazine. This reaction requires diprotonation to proceed readily, but we then discovered that replacing one NH by an O as in N,O-diphenyl hydroxylamine required only monoprotonation to undergo an equivalent facile rearrangement. So replacing both NHs by O to form diphenyl peroxide (Ph-O-O-Ph) completes this homologous series. I had speculated that PhNHOPh might exist if all traces of catalytic acid were removed, but could the same be done to PhOOPh? Not if it continues the trend and requires no prior protonation at all!


January 19, 2013

Aromaticity in the benzidine-like π-complex formed from PhNHOPh.

Filed under: Interesting chemistry — Tags: , — Henry Rzepa @ 8:53 am

The transient π-complex formed during the “[5,5]” sigmatropic rearrangement of protonated N,O-diphenyl hydroxylamine can be (formally) represented as below, namely the interaction of a six-π-electron aromatic ring (the phenoxide anion 2) with a four-π-electron phenyl dication-anion pair 1. Can one analyse this interaction in terms of aromaticity?


January 18, 2013

The π-complex in the benzidine rearrangement: a molecular orbital analysis.

Filed under: Interesting chemistry — Tags: , , , — Henry Rzepa @ 11:07 am

Michael Dewar[1] famously implicated a so-called π-complex in the benzidine rearrangement, back in the days when quantum mechanical calculations could not yet provide a quantitatively accurate reality check. Because this π-complex actually remains a relatively unusual species to encounter in day-to-day chemistry, I thought I would try to show in a simple way how it forms.



  1. M. Dewar, and H. McNicoll, "Mechanism of the benzidine rearrangement", Tetrahedron Letters, vol. 1, pp. 22-23, 1959. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0040-4039(01)82765-9

January 11, 2013

The Benzidine rearrangement. Computed kinetic isotope effects.

Filed under: Interesting chemistry — Tags: , , , , — Henry Rzepa @ 8:22 pm

Kinetic isotope effects have become something of a lost art when it comes to exploring reaction mechanisms. But in their heyday they were absolutely critical for establishing the mechanism of the benzidine rearrangement[1]. This classic mechanism proceeds via bisprotonation of diphenyl hydrazine, but what happens next was the crux. Does this species rearrange directly to the C-C coupled intermediate (a concerted [5,5] sigmatropic reaction) or does it instead form a π-complex, as famously first suggested by Michael Dewar[2] [via TS(NN] and only then in a second step [via TS(CC)] form the C-C bond? Here I explore the isotope effects measured and calculated for this exact system.



  1. H.J. Shine, H. Zmuda, K.H. Park, H. Kwart, A.G. Horgan, and M. Brechbiel, "Benzidine rearrangements. 16. The use of heavy-atom kinetic isotope effects in solving the mechanism of the acid-catalyzed rearrangement of hydrazobenzene. The concerted pathway to benzidine and the nonconcerted pathway to diphenyline", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 104, pp. 2501-2509, 1982. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja00373a028
  2. M. Dewar, and H. McNicoll, "Mechanism of the benzidine rearrangement", Tetrahedron Letters, vol. 1, pp. 22-23, 1959. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0040-4039(01)82765-9

July 7, 2011

Computers 1967-2011: a personal perspective. Part 1. 1967-1985.

Computers and I go back a while (44 years to be precise), and it struck me (with some horror) that I have been around them for ~62% of the modern computing era (Babbage notwithstanding, ~1940 is normally taken as the start of the modern computing era). So indulge me whilst I record this perspective from the viewpoint of the computers I have used over this 62% of the computing era. (more…)

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