Archive for August, 2014

A pentacoordinate carbon

Trying to get carbon to bond in unnatural ways seems to be a passion for many organic chemists! Schleyer has been interested in unusual carbon structures for decades and he and Schaefer now report a molecule with a pentacoordinate carbon bound to five other carbon atoms. Their proposed target is pentamethylmethane cation C(CH3)5+ 1.1 The optimized geometry of 1, which has C3h symmetry, at MP2/cc-pVTZ is shown in Figure 1. The bonds from the central carbon to the equatorial carbon are a rather long 1.612 Å, but the bonds to the axial carbon are even longer, namely 1.736 Å. Bader analysis shows five bond critical points, each connecting the central carbon to one of the methyl carbons. Wiberg bond index and MO analysis suggests that the central carbon is tetravalent, with a 2-electron-3-center bond involving the central and axial carbons.




Figure 1. MP2/cc-pVTZ optimized geometries of 1 and dissociation transition states.

So while 1 is a local energy minimum, it sits in a very shallow well. One computed dissociation path, which passes through TS1 (Figure 1) on its way to 2-methyl-butyl cation and methane has a barrier of only 1.65 kcal mol-1 (CCSD(T)/CBS + ZPE). A second dissociation pathway goes through TS2 to t-butyl cation and ethane with a barrier of only 1.34 kcal mol-1. Worse still is that the free energy estimates suggest “spontaneous dissociation … through both pathways”.

Undoubtedly, this will not be the last word on trying to torture a poor carbon atom.


(1) McKee, W. C.; Agarwal, J.; Schaefer, H. F.; Schleyer, P. v. R. "Covalent Hypercoordination: Can Carbon Bind Five Methyl Ligands?," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 7875-7878, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201403314.


1: InChI=1S/C6H15/c1-6(2,3,4)5/h1-5H3/q+1

Schaefer &Schleyer Steven Bachrach 25 Aug 2014 1 Comment

Torqoselectivity in forming a Cis,Trans-Cyclooctadienone

Houk’s theory of torquoselectivity is a great achievement of computational chemistry, as told in Chapter 4.6 of the second edition of my book. Houk, in a collaboration with Krenske and Hsung, now report on an application of torquoselectivity in the formation of a cis-trans-cyclooctadienone intermediate.1

The proposed reaction is shown in Scheme 1, where the bicyclic compound undergoes a conrotatory ring opening in just one orientation to form the E,E-cyclooctadienone, which can then ring close to product.

Scheme 1.

Houk ran M06-2x//6-311+G(d,p)//B3LYP/6-31G(d) computations on the model system 1, passing over the two torquodistinctive transition states TSEE and TSZZ, and on to produce the two cyclooctadienones 2EE and 2ZZ, respectively. As seen in Figure 1, the barrier through TSEE is favored by 9.8 kcal mol-1, and leads to the much more favorable cycloocatadienone 2EE.







Figure 1. B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized structures and relative free energies (kcal mol-1) at M06-2x//6-311+G(d,p)//B3LYP/6-31G(d).

Ring closure taking TSEE to product goes through TS2 (Figure 1), with a very high barrier, 47.5 kcal mol-1 above reactant, suggesting that this path is not likely to occur. Instead, they propose that 2EE is first protonated (2EEH+) and then cyclizes through TS2H+ (Figure 2). This barrier is only 6.2 kcal mol-1, some 44 kcal mol-1 lower than the neutral process through TS2.



Figure 2. B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized structures


(1) Wang, X.-N.; Krenske, E. H.; Johnston, R. C.; Houk, K. N.; Hsung, R. P. "Torquoselective Ring Opening of Fused Cyclobutenamides: Evidence for a Cis,Trans-Cyclooctadienone Intermediate," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 9802-9805, DOI: 10.1021/ja502252t.

Houk Steven Bachrach 11 Aug 2014 No Comments

Splitting CO2 with a two-coordinate boron cation

This paper is a bit afield from the usual material I cover but this is an interesting reaction. Shoji and coworkers have prepared the two-coordinate boron species 1,1 and confirmed its geometry by an x-ray crystal structure. What I find interesting is its reaction with CO2, which gives 2 and organoboranes that are not identified, though presumably derived from 3.

M06-2x/6-311+G(d,p) computations support a hypothetical mechanism whereby first a complex between 1 and CO2 is formed (CP1), that is 4.4 kcal mol-1 above isolated reactants. Then passing through TS1, which is 4.2 kcal mol-1 above CP1, an intermediate is formed (INT), which is almost 6 kcal mol-1 below starting materials. A second transition state is then traversed (about 1 kcal mol-1 below starting materials), to form an exit complex between 2 and 3, which can then separate to the final products with an overall exothermicity of 10.6 kcal mol-1. The structures of these critical points are shown in Figure 1.







Figure 1. M06-2x/6-311+G(d,p) optimized structures. Relative energy in kcal mol-1.


(1) Shoji, Y.; Tanaka, N.; Mikami, K.; Uchiyama, M.; Fukushima, T. "A two-coordinate boron cation featuring C–B+–C bonding," Nat. Chem. 2014, 6, 498-503, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1948.


1: InChI=1S/C18H22B/c1-11-7-13(3)17(14(4)8-11)19-18-15(5)9-12(2)10-16(18)6/h7-10H,1-6H3/q+1

2: InChI=1S/C10H11O/c1-7-4-8(2)10(6-11)9(3)5-7/h4-5H,1-3H3/q+1

3: InChI=1S/C9H11BO/c1-6-4-7(2)9(10-11)8(3)5-6/h4-5H,1-3H3

Uncategorized Steven Bachrach 04 Aug 2014 1 Comment