The Organometallic Reader

Dedicated to the teaching and learning of modern organometallic chemistry.

Posts Tagged ‘agostic interactions

Epic Ligand Survey: σ Complexes

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Epic Ligand Survey: Sigma ComplexesIn this post, we’ll investigate ligands that, shockingly enough, bind through their σ electrons in an L-type fashion. This binding mode depends as much on the metal center as it does on the ligand itself—to see why, we need only recognize that σ complexes look like intermediates in concerted oxidative additions. With a slight reorganization of electrons and geometry, an L-type σ ligand can become two X-type ligands. Why, then, are σ complexes stable? How can we control the ratio of σ complex to X2 complex in a given situation? How does complexation of a σ bond change the ligand’s properties? We’ll address these questions and more in this post.

General Properties

The first thing to realize about σ complexes is that they are highly sensitive to steric bulk. Any old σ bond won’t do; hydrogen at one end of the binding bond or the other (or both) is necessary. The best studied σ complexes involve dihydrogen (H2), so let’s start there.

Mildly backbonding metals may bind dihydrogen “side on.” Like side-on binding in π complexes, there are two important orbital interactions at play here: σH–Hdσ and dπ→σ*H–H. Dihydrogen complexes can “tautomerize” to (H)2 isomers through oxidative addition of the H–H bond to the metal.

Orbital interactions and L-X2 equilibrium in σ complexes.

Orbital interactions and L-X2 equilibrium in σ complexes.

H2 binding in an L-type fashion massively acidifies the ligand—changes in pKa of over thirty units are known! Analogous acidifications of X–H bonds, which we touched on in a previous post, rarely exhibit ΔpKa > 5. What gives? What’s causing the different behavior of X–H and H–H ligands? The key is to consider the conjugate base of the ligand—in particular, how much it’s stabilized by a metal center relative to the corresponding free anion. The principle here is analogous to the famous dictum of organic chemistry: consider charged species when making acid/base comparisons. Stabilization of the unhindered anion H by a metal is much greater than stabilization of larger, more electronegative anions like HO– and NH2– by a metal. As a result, it’s more favorable to remove a proton from metal-complexed H2 than from larger, more electronegative X–H ligands. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Michael Evans

April 10, 2012 at 10:58 am

Epic Ligand Survey: Metal Alkyls (Part 1)

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Epic Ligand Survey: Metal Alkyls (Part 1)With this post we finally reach the defining ligands of organometallic chemistry, alkyls. Metal alkyls feature a metal-carbon σ bond and are usually actor ligands, although some alkyl ligands behave as spectators. Our aim will be to understand the general dependence of the behavior of alkyl ligands on the metal center and the ligand’s substituents. Using this knowledge, we can make meaningful comparisons between related metal alkyl complexes and educated predictions about their likely behavior. Because alkyl ligands are central to organometallic chemistry, I’ve decided to spread this discussion across multiple posts. We’ll deal first with the general properties of metal alkyls.

General Properties

In the Simplifying the Organometallic Complex series, we decomposed the M–C bond into a positively charged metal and negatively charged carbon. This deconstruction procedure is consistent with the relative electronegativities of carbon and the transition metals. It can be very useful for us to imagine metal alkyls essentially as stabilized carbanions—but it’s also important to understand that M–C bonds run the gamut from extremely ionic and salt-like (NaCH3) to essentially covalent ([HgCH3]+). The reactivity of the alkyl ligand is inversely related to the electronegativity of the metal center.

Reactivity decreases as the metal's electronegativity increases.

Reactivity decreases as the metal's electronegativity increases. Values given are Pauling electronegativities.

The hybridization of the carbon atom is also important, and the trend here follows the trend in nucleophilicity as a function of hybridization in organic chemistry. sp-Hybridized ligands are the least nucleophilic, followed by sp2 and sp3 ligands respectively. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael Evans

March 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm