Archive for September, 2018

Curved Aromatic molecules – 4 new examples

I have recently been interested in curved aromatic systems – see my own paper on double helicenes.1 In this post, I cover four recent papers that discuss non-planar aromatic molecules.

The first paper2 discusses the warped aromatic 1 built off of the scaffold of depleiadene 3. The crystal structure of 1 shows the molecule to be a saddle with near C2v symmetry. B3LYP/6-31G computations indicate that the saddle isomer is 10.5 kcal mol-1 more stable than the twisted isomer, and the barrier between them is 16.0 kcal mol-1, with a twisted saddle intermediate as well.

The PES is significantly simpler for the structure lacking the t-butyl groups, 2. The B3LYP/6-31G PES of 2 has the saddle as the transition state interconverting mirror images of the twisted saddle isomer, and this barrier is only 1.8 kcal mol-1. Figure 1 displays the twisted saddle and the saddle transition state. Clearly, the t-butyl groups significantly alter the flexibility of this C86 aromatic surface. One should be somewhat concerned about the small basis set employed here, especially lacking polarization functions, and a functional that lacks dispersion correction. However, the computed geometry of 1 is quite similar to that of the x-ray structure.

2 twisted saddle (ground state)

2 saddle (transition state)

Figure 1. B3LYP/6-31G optimized geometries of the isomer of 2.

The second paper presents 4, a non-planar aromatic based on [8]circulene 6.3 (See this post for a general study of circulenes.) [8]circulene has a tub-shape, but is flexible and can undergo tub-to-tub inversion. The expanded aromatic 4 is found to have a twisted shape in the x-ray crystal structure. A simplified model 5 was computed at B3LYP/6-31G(d) and the twisted isomer is 4.1 kcal mol-1 lower in energy than the saddle (tub) isomer (see Figure 2). The barrier for interconversion of the two isomers is only 6.2 kcal mol-1, indicating a quite labile structure.

5 twisted

5 TS

5 saddle

Figure 2. B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized geometries and relative energies (kcal mol-1) of the isomers of 5.

The third paper presents a geodesic molecule based on 1,3,5-trisubstitued phenyl repeat units.4 The authors prepared 7, and its x-ray structure shows a saddle-shape. The NMR indicate a molecule that undergoes considerable conformational dynamics. To address this, they did some computations on the methyl analogue 8. The D7h structure is 309 kcal mol-1 above the local energy minimum structure, which is way too high to be accessed at room temperature. PM6 computations identified a TS only 0.6 kcal mol-1 above the saddle ground state. (I performed a PM6 optimization starting from the x-ray structure, which is highly disordered, and the structure obtained is shown in Figure 3. Unfortunately, the authors did not report the optimized coordinates of any structure!)

Figure 3. PM6 optimized structure of 8.

The fourth and last paper describes the aza-buckybowl 9.5 The x-ray crystal structure shows a curved bowl shape with Cs symmetry. NICS(0) values were computed for the parent molecule 10 B3LYP/6-31G(d). These values are shown in Scheme 1 and the geometry is shown in Figure 4. The 6-member rings that surround the azacylopentadienyl ring all have NICS(0) near zero, which suggests significant bond localization.

Scheme 1. NICS(0) values of 10

Figure 4. B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized structure of 10.

Our understanding of what aromaticity really means is constantly being challenged!


1. Bachrach, S. M., "Double helicenes." Chem. Phys. Lett. 2016, 666, 13-18, DOI: 10.1016/j.cplett.2016.10.070.

2. Ho, P. S.; Kit, C. C.; Jiye, L.; Zhifeng, L.; Qian, M., "A Dipleiadiene-Embedded Aromatic Saddle Consisting
of 86 Carbon Atoms." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 1581-1586, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201711437.

3. Yin, C. K.; Kit, C. C.; Zhifeng, L.; Qian, M., "A Twisted Nanographene Consisting of 96 Carbon Atoms." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 9003-9007, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201703754.

4. Koki, I.; Jennie, L.; Ryo, K.; Sota, S.; Hiroyuki, I., "Fluctuating Carbonaceous Networks with a Persistent
Molecular Shape: A Saddle-Shaped Geodesic Framework of 1,3,5-Trisubstituted Benzene (Phenine)." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 8555-8559, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201803984.

5. Yuki, T.; Shingo, I.; Kyoko, N., "A Hybrid of Corannulene and Azacorannulene: Synthesis of a Highly Curved Nitrogen-Containing Buckybowl." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 9818-9822, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201805678.


1: InChI=1S/C134H128/c1-123(2,3)57-37-65-66-38-58(124(4,5)6)42-70-74-46-62(128(16,17)18)50-82-94(74)110-106(90(66)70)105-89(65)69(41-57)73-45-61(127(13,14)15)49-81-93(73)109(105)119-113-97(81)85(131(25,26)27)53-77-78-54-87(133(31,32)33)99-83-51-63(129(19,20)21)47-75-71-43-59(125(7,8)9)39-67-68-40-60(126(10,11)12)44-72-76-48-64(130(22,23)24)52-84-96(76)112-108(92(68)72)107(91(67)71)111(95(75)83)121-115(99)103(78)118-104-80(56-88(134(34,35)36)100(84)116(104)122(112)121)79-55-86(132(28,29)30)98(82)114(120(110)119)102(79)117(118)101(77)113/h37-56H,1-36H3

2: InChI=1S/C86H32/c1-9-33-34-10-2-14-38-42-18-6-22-46-50-26-30-55-56-32-28-52-48-24-8-20-44-40-16-4-12-36-35-11-3-15-39-43-19-7-23-47-51-27-31-54-53-29-25-49-45-21-5-17-41-37(13-1)57(33)73-74(58(34)38)78(62(42)46)84-70(50)66(55)81(65(53)69(49)83(84)77(73)61(41)45)82-67(54)71(51)85-79(63(43)47)75(59(35)39)76(60(36)40)80(64(44)48)86(85)72(52)68(56)82/h1-32H

3: InChI=1S/C18H12/c1-2-6-14-11-12-16-8-4-3-7-15-10-9-13(5-1)17(14)18(15)16/h1-12H

4: InChI=1S/C132H108O4/c1-125(2,3)53-29-65-66-30-54(126(4,5)6)34-70-74-38-58(130(16,17)18)42-78-86-46-82-63-51-91(135-27)92(136-28)52-64(63)84-48-88-80-44-60(132(22,23)24)40-76-72-36-56(128(10,11)12)32-68-67-31-55(127(7,8)9)35-71-75-39-59(131(19,20)21)43-79-87-47-83-62-50-90(134-26)89(133-25)49-61(62)81-45-85-77-41-57(129(13,14)15)37-73-69(33-53)93(65)109-110(94(66)70)114(98(74)78)122-106(86)118-103(82)104(84)120-108(88)124-116(100(76)80)112(96(68)72)111(95(67)71)115(99(75)79)123(124)107(87)119(120)102(83)101(81)117(118)105(85)121(122)113(109)97(73)77/h29-52H,1-28H3

5: InChI=1S/C108H60O4/c1-37-13-49-50-14-38(2)18-54-58-22-42(6)26-62-70-30-66-47-35-75(111-11)76(112-12)36-48(47)68-32-72-64-28-44(8)24-60-56-20-40(4)16-52-51-15-39(3)19-55-59-23-43(7)27-63-71-31-67-46-34-74(110-10)73(109-9)33-45(46)65-29-69-61-25-41(5)21-57-53(17-37)77(49)93-94(78(50)54)98(82(58)62)106-90(70)102-87(66)88(68)104-92(72)108-100(84(60)64)96(80(52)56)95(79(51)55)99(83(59)63)107(108)91(71)103(104)86(67)85(65)101(102)89(69)105(106)97(93)81(57)61/h13-36H,1-12H3

6: InChI=1S/C32H16/c1-2-18-5-6-20-9-11-22-13-15-24-16-14-23-12-10-21-8-7-19-4-3-17(1)25-26(18)28(20)30(22)32(24)31(23)29(21)27(19)25/h1-16H

7: InChI=1S/C224H210/c1-211(2,3)197-99-169-85-183(113-197)184-86-170(100-198(114-184)212(4,5)6)157-66-149-67-158(79-157)172-88-187(117-200(102-172)214(10,11)12)188-90-174(104-202(118-188)216(16,17)18)161-70-151-71-162(81-161)176-92-191(121-204(106-176)218(22,23)24)193-95-179(109-207(123-193)221(31,32)33)165-74-153-75-166(83-165)180-96-195(125-208(110-180)222(34,35)36)196-98-182(112-210(126-196)224(40,41)42)168-77-154-76-167(84-168)181-97-194(124-209(111-181)223(37,38)39)192-94-178(108-206(122-192)220(28,29)30)164-73-152-72-163(82-164)177-93-190(120-205(107-177)219(25,26)27)189-91-175(105-203(119-189)217(19,20)21)160-69-150-68-159(80-160)173-89-186(116-201(103-173)215(13,14)15)185-87-171(101-199(115-185)213(7,8)9)156-65-148(64-155(169)78-156)141-50-127-43-128(51-141)130-45-132(55-143(150)53-130)134-47-136(59-145(152)57-134)138-49-140(63-147(154)61-138)139-48-137(60-146(153)62-139)135-46-133(56-144(151)58-135)131-44-129(127)52-142(149)54-131/h43-126H,1-42H3

8: InChI=1S/C182H126/c1-99-15-113-43-127(29-99)141-57-142-65-155(64-141)162-78-169-92-170(79-162)172-82-164-83-174(94-172)176-85-166-87-178(96-176)180-89-168-91-182(98-180)181-90-167-88-179(97-181)177-86-165-84-175(95-177)173-81-163(80-171(169)93-173)156-66-143(128-30-100(2)16-114(113)44-128)58-144(67-156)130-32-103(5)19-117(47-130)118-20-104(6)34-132(48-118)147-60-148(71-158(165)70-147)134-36-107(9)23-121(51-134)123-25-109(11)39-137(53-123)151-62-152(75-160(167)74-151)138-40-111(13)27-125(55-138)126-28-112(14)42-140(56-126)154-63-153(76-161(168)77-154)139-41-110(12)26-124(54-139)122-24-108(10)38-136(52-122)150-61-149(72-159(166)73-150)135-37-106(8)22-120(50-135)119-21-105(7)35-133(49-119)146-59-145(68-157(164)69-146)131-33-102(4)18-116(46-131)115-17-101(3)31-129(142)45-115/h15-98H,1-14H3

9: InChI=1S/C44H23N/c1-44(2,3)21-16-28-24-8-4-6-22-26-14-19-12-10-18-11-13-20-15-27-23-7-5-9-25-29(17-21)41(28)45-42(33(22)24)39-35(26)37-31(19)30(18)32(20)38(37)36(27)40(39)43(45)34(23)25/h4-17H,1-3H3

10: InChI=1S/C40H15N/c1-4-19-23-8-3-9-24-20-5-2-7-22-26-15-18-13-11-16-10-12-17-14-25-21(6-1)30(19)39-36-32(25)34-28(17)27(16)29(18)35(34)33(26)37(36)40(31(20)22)41(39)38(23)24/h1-15H

Aromaticity Steven Bachrach 24 Sep 2018 No Comments

Dynamics in a terpene cation rearrangement

Sarpong and Tantillo have examined the acid-catalyzed Prins/semipinacol rearrangement of hydroxylated pinenes, such as Reaction 1.1

Rxn 1

Interestingly, only the fenchone scaffold products, like 1, are observed and the camphor scaffold products, like 2, are not observed. Cation intermediates are likely, and this means that a primary alkyl shift is taking place in preference to a tertiary alkyl shift, see Scheme 1.

Scheme 1.

Primary alkyl shift

Tertiary alkyl shift

They proposed the following key steps in the reaction mechanism:

ωB97X-D/6-31+G(d,p) computations find a flat surface around cation intermediate 4: the TS leading to 5 and 6 are only 1.3 and 3.3 kcal mol-1, respectively. Since these small barriers are quite susceptible to changes in basis set and functional, and since Tantillo has found many examples of post-transition state bifurcations in cation systems, the authors reasonably decided to conduct molecular dynamics trajectories originating at the TS connecting 3 and 4. The geometries of the critical points are shown in Figure 1.

The trajectory study shows all the usual characteristics of reactions that are under dynamic control. A third of the trajectories show recrossing of the barrier, typical of very flat surfaces. Nearly all of the remaining trajectories led to 5, with only 2 trajectories (~1%) leading to 6. The dynamics are understandable in terms of favoring the primary alkyl shift over the tertiary since a significantly smaller mass needs to move in the former case.

TS 3 → 4


TS 4 → 5

TS 4 → 6

Figure 1. ωB97X-D/6-31+G(d,p) optimized geometries.

This is yet another study that implicates dynamic effects in routine reactions, one of many I have discussed over the years.


1. Blümel, M.; Nagasawa, S.; Blackford, K.; Hare, S. R.; Tantillo, D. J.; Sarpong, R., "Rearrangement of Hydroxylated Pinene Derivatives to Fenchone-Type Frameworks: Computational Evidence for Dynamically-Controlled Selectivity." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 9291-9298, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b05804.


1: InChI=1S/C17H20O2/c1-16-9-12-8-13(16)14(11-6-4-3-5-7-11)19-10-17(12,2)15(16)18/h3-7,12-14H,8-10H2,1-2H3/t12?,13?,14-,16?,17?/m0/s1

2: InChI=1S/C17H20O2/c1-16-10-19-15(11-6-4-3-5-7-11)13-8-12(16)9-14(18)17(13,16)2/h3-7,12-13,15H,8-10H2,1-2H3/t12?,13?,15-,16?,17?/m0/s1

Dynamics Steven Bachrach 10 Sep 2018 1 Comment