The Organometallic Reader

Dedicated to the teaching and learning of modern organometallic chemistry.

Posts Tagged ‘electron counting

β-Elimination Reactions

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In organic chemistry class, one learns that elimination reactions involve the cleavage of a σ bond and formation of a π bond. A nucleophilic pair of electrons (either from another bond or a lone pair) heads into a new π bond as a leaving group departs. This process is called β-elimination because the bond β to the nucleophilic pair of electrons breaks. Transition metal complexes can participate in their own version of β-elimination, and metal alkyl complexes famously do so. Almost by definition, metal alkyls contain a nucleophilic bond—the M–C bond! This bond can be so polarized toward carbon, in fact, that it can promote the elimination of some of the world’s worst leaving groups, like –H and –CH3. Unlike the organic case, however, the leaving group is not lost completely in organometallic β-eliminations. As the metal donates electrons, it receives electrons from the departing leaving group. When the reaction is complete, the metal has picked up a new π-bound ligand and exchanged one X-type ligand for another.

Comparing organic and organometallic β-eliminations. A nucleophilic bond or lone pair promotes loss or migration of a leaving group.

Comparing organic and organometallic β-eliminations. A nucleophilic bond or lone pair promotes loss or migration of a leaving group.

In this post, we’ll flesh out the mechanism of β-elimination reactions by looking at the conditions required for their occurrence and their reactivity trends. Many of the trends associated with β-eliminations are the opposite of analogous trends in 1,2-insertion reactions. A future post will address other types of elimination reactions.

β-Hydride Elimination

The most famous and ubiquitous type of β-elimination is β-hydride elimination, which involves the formation of a π bond and an M–H bond. Metal alkyls that contain β-hydrogens experience rapid elimination of these hydrogens, provided a few other conditions are met. Read the rest of this entry »

Oxidative Addition: General Ideas

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A critical difference between the transition metals and the organic elements is the ability of the former to exist in multiple oxidation states. In fact, the redox flexibility of the transition metals and the redox obstinacy of the organic elements work wonderfully together. Why? Imagine the transition metal as a kind of matchmaker for the organic elements. Transition metals can take on additional covalent bonds (oxidation), switch out ligands (substitution), then release new covalent bonds (reduction). The resulting organic products remain unfazed by the metal’s redox insanity. Talk about a match made in heaven!

The following series of posts will deal with the first step of this process, oxidation. More specifically, we’ll discuss the oxidation of transition metals via formal insertion into covalent bonds, also known as oxidative addition (OA). Although we often think of oxidative addition as an elementary reaction of organometallic chemistry, it is not an elementary mechanistic step. In fact, oxidative addition can proceed through a variety of mechanisms. Furthermore, any old change in oxidation state does not an oxidative addition make (that almost rhymes…). Formally, the attachment of an electrophile to a metal center (e.g., protonation) represents oxidation, but we shouldn’t call this oxidative addition, since two ligands aren’t entering the fray. Instead, we call this oxidative ligation (OL).

Oxidative addition involves formal bond insertion and the introduction of two new ligands to the metal. Oxidative ligation, OTOH, involves the coordination of only one new ligand, an electrophile.

Oxidative addition involves formal bond insertion and the introduction of two new ligands to the metal. Oxidative ligation, OTOH, involves the coordination of only one new ligand, an electrophile.

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What is an Open Coordination Site?

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The concept of coordinative unsaturation can be confusing for the student of organometallic chemistry, but recognizing open coordination sites in OM complexes is a critical skill. Why? Let’s begin with a famous example of coordinative unsaturation from organic chemistry.

An analogy from organic chemistry. The reactivity of the carbene flows from its open coordination site.

An analogy from organic chemistry. The reactivity of the carbene flows from its open coordination site.

Carbenes are both nucleophilic and electrophilic, but the essence of their electrophilicity comes from the fact that they don’t have their fair share of electrons (8). They have not been saturated with electrons—carbenes want more! To achieve saturation, carbenes may inherit a pair of electrons from a σ bond (σ-bond insertion), π bond (cyclopropanation), or lone pair (ylide formation). Notice that, simply by spotting coordinative unsaturation, we’ve been able to fully describe the carbene’s reactivity! We can do the same with organometallic complexes—open coordination sites suggest specific reactivity patterns. That’s why understanding coordinative unsaturation and recognizing its telltale sign (the open coordination site) are essential skills for the organometallic chemist. Read the rest of this entry »

Simplifying the Organometallic Complex (Part 3)

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So far, we’ve seen how deconstruction can reveal useful “bookkeeping” properties of organometallic complexes: number of electrons donated by ligands, coordination number, oxidation state, and d electron count (to name a few). Now, let’s bring everything together and discuss total electron count, the sum of non-bonding and bonding electrons associated with the metal center. Like oxidation state, total electron count can reveal the likely reactivity of OM complexes—in fact, it is often more powerful than oxidation state for making predictions. We’ll see that there is a definite norm for total electron count, and when a complex deviates from that norm, reactions are likely to happen.

Let’s begin with yet another new complex. This molecule features the common and important cyclopentadienyl and carbon monoxide ligands, along with an X-type ethyl ligand.

What's the total electron count of this d6, Fe(II) complex?

What is the total electron count of this Fe(II) complex?

The Cp or cyclopentadienyl ligand is a polydentate, six-electron L2X ligand. The two pi bonds of the free anion are dative, L-type ligands, which we’ll see again in a future post on ligands bound through pi bonds. Think of the electrons of the pi bond as the source of a dative bond to the metal. Since both electrons come from the ligand, the pi bonds are L-type binders. The anionic carbon in Cp is a fairly standard, anionic X-type binder. The carbon monoxide ligands are interesting examples of two-electron L-type ligands—notice that the free ligands are neutral, so these are considered L-type! Carbon monoxide is an intriguing ligand that can teach us a great deal about metal-ligand bonding in OM complexes…but more on that later. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael Evans

January 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Simplifying the Organometallic Complex (Part 2)

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Now it’s time to turn our attention to the metal center, and focus on what the deconstruction process can tell us about the nature of the metal in organometallic complexes. We’ll hold off on a description of periodic trends of the transition series, but now is a good time to introduce the general characteristics of the transition metals. Check out groups 3-12 in the table below.

The transition metals are colored dark blue in this table.

The transition metals are colored dark blue in this table.

The transition metals occupy the d-block of the periodic table, meaning that, as we move from left to right across the transition series, electrons are added to the d atomic orbitals. Just like organic elements, the transition metals form bonds using only their valence electrons. But when working with the transition metals, we need to concern ourselves only with the d atomic orbitals, as none of the other valence subshells contain any electrons. Although the periodic table may lead you to believe that the transition metals possess filled s subshells, we imagine metals in organometallic complexes as possessing valence electrons in d orbitals only! The reason for this is somewhat complicated, but has to do with the partial positive charge of complexed metals. Neutral transition metal atoms do, in fact, possess filled s subshells. Why, then, is it important to remember that the valence electrons of complexed metal centers are all d electrons? We will see that the number of d electrons possessed by a complexed metal is in many ways a useful concept. If you find that your counts are off by two, this common mistake is probably the culprit! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael Evans

January 4, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Simplifying the Organometallic Complex (Part 1)

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Organometallic complexes, which consist of centrally located metals and peripheral organic compounds called ligands, are the workhorses of organometallic chemistry. Just like organic intermediates, understanding something about the structure of these molecules tells us a great deal about their expected reactivity. Some we would expect to be stable, and others definitely not! A big part of our early explorations will involve describing, systematically, the principles that govern the stability of organometallic complexes. From the outset, I will say that these principles are not set in stone and are best applied to well controlled comparisons. Nonetheless the principles are definitely worth talking about, because they form the foundation of everything else we’ll discuss. Let’s begin by exploring the general characteristics of organometallic complexes and identifying three key classes of organic ligands.

When we think of metals we usually think of electropositive atoms or even positively charged ions, and many of the metals of OM chemistry fit this mold. In general, it is useful to imagine organic ligands as electron donors and metals as electron acceptors. When looking at a pair of electrons shared between a transition metal and main-group atom (or hydrogen), I imagine the cationic metal center and anionic main-group atom racing toward one another from oblivion like star-crossed lovers. In the opposite direction (with an important caveat that we’ll address soon), we can imagine ripping apart metal–R covalent bonds and giving both electrons of the bond to the organic atom. This heterolytic bond cleavage method reproduces the starting charges on the metal and ligand. Unsurprisingly, the metal is positive and the ligand negative.

Behold, it is the east! And carbanion is the sun!

Behold, it is the east! And carbanion is the sun!

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Written by Michael Evans

January 3, 2012 at 12:57 am