Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

February 18, 2019

The Graham reaction: Deciding upon a reasonable mechanism and curly arrow representation.

Students learning organic chemistry are often asked in examinations and tutorials to devise the mechanisms (as represented by curly arrows) for the core corpus of important reactions, with the purpose of learning skills that allow them to go on to improvise mechanisms for new reactions. A common question asked by students is how should such mechanisms be presented in an exam in order to gain full credit? Alternatively, is there a single correct mechanism for any given reaction? To which the lecturer or tutor will often respond that any reasonable mechanism will receive such credit. The implication is that a mechanism is “reasonable” if it “follows the rules”. The rules are rarely declared fully, but seem to be part of the absorbed but often mysterious skill acquired in learning the subject. These rules also include those governing how the curly arrows should be drawn. Here I explore this topic using the Graham reaction.[1]



  1. W.H. Graham, "The Halogenation of Amidines. I. Synthesis of 3-Halo- and Other Negatively Substituted Diazirines1", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 87, pp. 4396-4397, 1965. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja00947a040

September 21, 2013

An example of an extreme gauche effect: FSSF.

Filed under: Interesting chemistry,reaction mechanism — Tags: , — Henry Rzepa @ 8:55 am

The best known example of the gauche effect is 1,2-difluoroethane, which exhibits a relatively small preference of ~0.5 kcal/mol for this conformer over the anti orientation, which is also a minimum. But FSSF, which I discussed in the previous post, beats this hands down! It also, by the way, must surely be the smallest molecule (only four atoms) which could be theoretically resolved into two enantiomers (possibly at say 273K?).


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