The singlet and triplet carbene is the topic of Chapter 4, especially sections 1 and 2. The ground state of methylene is the triplet, with one electron in the σ-orbital and one electron in the π-orbital, with the spins aligned. The lowest singlet state places the pair of electrons in the σ-orbital, and this state is about 9 kcal mol-1 higher in energy than the triplet. The next lowest singlet state has one electron in each of the σ- and π-orbitals, with the spins aligned. The singlet state with both electrons in the π-orbital is the highest of these four states, some 60 kcal mol-1 above the ground state triplet.

Hoffmann and Borden now pose the question “Can the doubly occupied π carbene (1A10π2) be the ground state with appropriate substitution?” The answer they find is yes!1

The trick is to find a combination of substituents that will raise the energy of the σ-orbital and lower the energy of the π-orbital. The latter effect can be enhanced if the π-orbital can be a part of an aromatic (6e-) ring.

Two of the best possibilities for identifying a ground state 1A10π2 carbene are 1 and 2. The CASSCF/6-31G(d) optimized geometries of these two are shown in Figure 1. In 1, the nitrogen lone pairs act to destabilize the σ-orbital, while the aldehyde group acts as a withdrawing group to stabilize the π-orbital. The result is that the 1A10π6 state of 1 is predicted to be about 8 kcal mol-1 more stable than the triplet state, as per CASPT2 and CCSD(T) computations.


1


2

An ever greater effect is predicted for 2. Here the nitrogen lone pairs adjacent to the carbene act to destabilize the σ-orbital. The empty π-orbital on B lowers the energy of the carbene π-orbital by making it part of the 6-electron aromatic ring. The 1A10π6 state of 2 is predicted to be about 25 kcal mol-1 more stable than its triplet state!

1

2

Figure 1. CASSCF/6-31G(d) optimized geometries of the 1A10π6 states of 1 and 2.

References

(1) Chen, B.; Rogachev, A. Y.; Hrovat, D. A.; Hoffmann, R.; Borden, W. T. "How to
Make the σ0π2 Singlet the Ground State of Carbenes," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 13954-13964, DOI: 10.1021/ja407116e.

InChIs

1: InChI=1S/C5H2N2O2/c8-1-4-5(2-9)7-3-6-4/h1-2H
InChIKey=QDSVROXEBBWIOO-UHFFFAOYSA-N

2: InChI=1S/C3H3BN2/c1-4-2-6-3-5-1/h1-2,4H
InChIKey=MQJXDZBYOSOLST-UHFFFAOYSA-N