The Organometallic Reader

Dedicated to the teaching and learning of modern organometallic chemistry.

Posts Tagged ‘pi systems

The trans/cis Effects & Influences

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The trans effect is an ancient but venerable observation. First noted by Chernyaev in 1926, the trans effect and its conceptual siblings (the trans influence, cis influence, and cis effect) are easy enough to comprehend. That is, it’s simple enough to know what they are. To understand why they are, on the other hand, is much more difficult. I call ideas like this—which, by the way, pop up often in organometallic chemistry—”icebergs.” Their definitions are simple and easy to see; their explanations can be complex.

Definitions & Examples

Let’s begin with definitions: what is the trans effect? There’s some confusion on this point, so we need to be careful. The trans effect proper, which is often called the kinetic trans effect, refers to the observation that certain ligands increase the rate of ligand substitution when positioned trans to the departing ligand. The key word in that last sentence is “rate”—the trans effect proper is a kinetic effect. The trans influence refers to the impact of a ligand on the length of the bond trans to it in the ground state of a complex. The key phrase there is “ground state”—this is a thermodynamic effect, so it’s sometimes called the thermodynamic trans effect. Adding to the insanity, cis effects and cis influences have also been observed. Evidently, ligands may also influence the kinetics or thermodynamics of their cis neighbors. All of these phenomena are independent of the metal center, but do depend profoundly on the geometry of the metal (more on that shortly).

Kinetic trans and cis effects are shown in the figure below. In both cases, we see that X1 exhibits a stronger effect than X2. The geometries shown are those for which each effect is most commonly observed. The metals and oxidation states shown are prototypical.

The kinetic trans and cis effects in action. X1 is the stronger (trans/cis)-effect ligand in these examples.

The kinetic trans and cis effects in action. X1 is the stronger (trans/cis)-effect ligand in these examples.

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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 »

Epic Ligand Survey: Odd-numbered π Systems

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Epic Ligand Survey: Odd-numbered Pi SystemsOdd-numbered π systems—most notably, the allyl and cyclopentadienyl ligands—are formally LnX-type ligands bound covalently through one atom (the “odd man out”) and datively through the others. This formal description is incomplete, however, as resonance structures reveal that multiple atoms within three- and five-atom π systems can be considered as covalently bound to the metal. To illustrate the plurality of equally important resonance structures for this class of ligands, we often just draw a curved line from one end of the π system to the other. Yet, even this form isn’t perfect, as it obscures the possibility that the datively bound atoms may dissociate from the metal center, forming σ-allyl or ring-slipped ligands. What do the odd-numbered π systems really look like, and how do they really behave? We’ll try to get to the bottom of these questions in the remainder of this post.

General Properties

Allyls are often actor ligands, most famously in allylic substitution reactions. The allyl ligand is an interesting beast because it may bind to metals in two ways. When its double bond does not become involved in binding to the metal, allyl is a simple X-type ligand bound covalently through one carbon—basically, a monodentate alkyl! Alternatively, allyl can act as a bidentate LX-type ligand, bound to the metal through all three conjugated atoms. The LX or “trihapto” form can be represented using one of two resonance forms, or (more common) the “toilet-bowl” form seen in the general figure above. I don’t like the toilet-bowl form despite its ubiquity, as it tends to obscure the important dynamic possibilities of the allyl ligand.

Can we use FMO theory to explain the wonky geometry of the allyl ligand?

Can we use FMO theory to explain the wonky geometry of the allyl ligand?

The lower half of the figure above illustrates the slightly weird character of the geometry of allyl ligands. In a previous post on even-numbered π systems, we investigated the orientation of the ligand with respect to the metal and came to some logical conclusions by invoking FMO theory and backbonding. A similar treatment of the allyl ligand leads us to similar conclusions: the plane of the allyl ligand should be parallel to the xy-plane of the metal center and normal to the z-axis. In reality, the allyl plane is slightly canted to optimize orbital overlap—but we can see at the right of the figure above that π2dxy orbital overlap is key. Also note the rotation of the anti hydrogens (anti to the central C–H, that is) toward the metal center to improve orbital overlap. Read the rest of this entry »

Epic Ligand Survey: π Systems (Part 2)

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Epic Ligand Survey: Pi Systems (Part 2)Arene or aromatic ligands are the subject of this post, the second in our series on π-system ligands. Arenes are dative, L-type ligands that may serve either as actors or spectators. Arenes commonly bind to metals through more than two atoms, although η2-arene ligands are known. Structurally, most η6-arenes tend to remain planar after binding to metals. Both “normal” bonding and backbonding are possible for arene ligands; however, arenes are stronger electron donors than CO and backbonding is less important for these ligands. The reactivity of arenes changes dramatically upon metal binding, along lines that we would expect for strongly electron-donating ligands. After coordinating to a transition metal, the arene usually becomes a better electrophile (particularly when the metal is electron poor). Thus, metal coordination can enable otherwise difficult nucleophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

General Properties

The coordination of an aromatic compound to a metal center through its aromatic π MOs removes electron density from the ring. I’m going to forego an in-depth orbital analysis in this post, because it’s honestly not very useful (and overly complex) for arene ligands. π → dσ (normal bonding) and dπ → π* (backbonding) orbital interactions are possible for arene ligands, with the former being much more important, typically. To simplify drawings, you often see chemists draw “toilet-bowl” arenes involving a circle and single central line to represent the π → dσ orbital interaction. Despite the single line, it is often useful to think about arenes as L3-type ligands. For instance, we think of η6-arenes as six-electron donors.

Multiple coordination modes are possible for arene ligands. When all six atoms of a benzene ring are bound to the metal (η6-mode), the ring is flat and C–C bond lengths are slightly longer than those in the free arene. The ring is bent and non-aromatic in η4-mode, so that the four atoms bound to the metal are coplanar while the other π bond is out of the plane. η4-Arene ligands show up in both stable complexes (see the figure below) and reactive intermediates that possess an open coordination site. To generate the latter, the corresponding η6-arene ligand undergoes ring slippage—one of the π bonds “slips” off of the metal to create an open coordination site. We’ll see ring slippage again in discussions of the aromatic cyclopentadienyl and indenyl ligands.

Arene ligands exhibit multiple coordination modes.

Arene ligands exhibit multiple coordination modes.

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Epic Ligand Survey: π Systems (Part 1)

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Epic Ligand Survey: Pi SystemsWith this post, we finally reach our first class of dative actor ligands, π systems. In contrast to the spectator L-type ligands we’ve seen so far, π systems most often play an important role in the reactivity of the OM complexes of which they are a part (since they act in reactions, they’re called “actors”). π Systems do useful chemistry, not just with the metal center, but also with other ligands and external reagents. Thus, in addition to thinking about how π systems affect the steric and electronic properties of the metal center, we need to start considering the metal’s effect on the ligand and how we might expect the ligand to behave as an active participant in reactions. To the extent that structure determines reactivity—a commonly repeated, and extremely powerful maxim in organic chemistry—we can think about possibilities for chemical change without knowing the elementary steps of organometallic chemistry in detail yet. And we’re off!

General Properties

The π bonding orbitals of alkenes, alkynes, carbonyls, and other unsaturated compounds may overlap with dσ orbitals on metal centers. This is the classic ligand HOMO → metal LUMO interaction that we’ve beaten into the ground over the last few posts. Because of this electron donation from the π system to the metal center, coordinated π systems often act electrophilic, even if the starting alkene was nucleophilic (the Wacker oxidation is a classic example; water attacks a palladium-coordinated alkene). The  π → dσ orbital interaction is central to the structure and reactivity of π-system complexes.

Then again, a theme of the last three posts has been the importance of orbital interactions with the opposite sense: metal HOMO → ligand LUMO. Like CO, phosphines, and NHCs, π systems are often subject to important backbonding interactions. We’ll focus on alkenes here, but these same ideas apply to carbonyls, alkynes, and other unsaturated ligands bound through their π clouds. For alkene ligands, the relative importance of “normal” bonding and backbonding is nicely captured by the relative importance of the two resonance structures in the figure below.

Resonance forms of alkene ligands.

Resonance forms of alkene ligands.

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