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Isomerism in Complexes

Isomerism in Complexes

Isomers are different chemical species that have the same chemical formula. Transition metals often form geometric isomers, in which the same atoms are connected through the same types of bonds but with differences in their orientation in space. Coordination complexes with two different ligands in the cis and trans positions from a ligand of interest form isomers. For example, the octahedral [Co(NH3)4Cl2]+ ion has two isomers. In the cis configuration, the two chloride ligands are adjacent to each other (see the figure below). The other isomer, the trans configuration, has the two chloride ligands directly across from one another.

Two structures are shown. The first is labeled, “Violet, cis form.” Below this label inside brackets is a central C o atom. From the C o atom, line segments indicate bonds to a C l atom above and the O atom of an H subscript 2 O group below the structure. Above and to both the right and left, dashed wedges with their vertex at the C o atom widening as they move out from the atom indicate bonds with O atoms of H subscript 2 O groups. Similarly, solid wedges below to both the right and left indicate bonds to a C l atom on the right and the O atom of an H subscript 2 O group on the left. This structure is enclosed in brackets. Outside the brackets to the right is the superscript plus sign. The second is labeled, “Green, trans form.” Below this label inside brackets is a central C o atom. From the C o atom, line segments indicate bonds to C l atoms above and below the structure. Above and to both the right and left, dashed wedges indicate bonds with O atoms of H subscript 2 O groups. Similarly, solid wedges below to both the right and left indicate bonds to the O atoms of H subscript 2 O groups. This structure is also enclosed in brackets with a superscript plus sign outside the brackets to the right.

The cis and trans isomers of [Co(H2O)4Cl2]+ contain the same ligands attached to the same metal ion, but the spatial arrangement causes these two compounds to have very different properties.

Different geometric isomers of a substance are different chemical compounds. They exhibit different properties, even though they have the same formula. For example, the two isomers of [Co(NH3)4Cl2]NO3 differ in color; the cis form is violet, and the trans form is green. Furthermore, these isomers have different dipole moments, solubilities, and reactivities.

As an example of how the arrangement in space can influence the molecular properties, consider the polarity of the two [Co(NH3)4Cl2]NO3 isomers. Remember that the polarity of a molecule or ion is determined by the bond dipoles (which are due to the difference in electronegativity of the bonding atoms) and their arrangement in space. In one isomer, cis chloride ligands cause more electron density on one side of the molecule than on the other, making it polar. For the trans isomer, each ligand is directly across from an identical ligand, so the bond dipoles cancel out, and the molecule is nonpolar.

Example

Geometric Isomers

Two structures are shown. In a, inside of brackets, a central Z n atom is bonded to 4 C atoms in a tetrahedral spatial arrangement. Short line segments are used to represent a bond extending above and down and to the left of the Z n atom. A dashed wedge with the vertex at the Z n atom and wide end at the C atom is used to represent a bond down and to the right of the Z n atom. The final bond is indicated by a similar solid wedge again directed down and only slightly right of the center beneath the Z n atom. Four groups of three parallel short line segments are shown indicating triple bonds extending from each C atom opposite the bond with Z n to an associated N atom. Outside the brackets a superscript of 2 negative is shown. In b, at the center of this structure is a P t atom. From this atom, a single bond represented by a dashed wedge extends from a vertex at the P t atom up and to the right to the N atom of an N H subscript 3 group. Similarly, a single bond represented by a solid wedge extends from a vertex at the P t atom down and to the right to the N atom of an N H subscript 3 group. Another single bond represented by a dashed wedge extends from a vertex at the P t atom up and to the left to a C l atom. Similarly, a single bond represented by a solid wedge extends from a vertex at the P t atom down and to the left to a C l atom.

Transition metals with a coordination number of four can adopt a tetrahedral geometry (a) as in K2[Zn(CN)4] or a square planar geometry (b) as shown in [Pt(NH3)2Cl2].

Identify which geometric isomer of [Pt(NH3)2Cl2] is shown in the figure above from the previous lesson. Draw the other geometric isomer and give its full name.

Solution

In the the figure above, the two chlorine ligands occupy cis positions. The other form is shown in the figure below. When naming specific isomers, the descriptor is listed in front of the name. Therefore, this complex is trans-diamminedichloroplatinum(II).

A structure is shown with a central P t atom. From this atom, single bonds represented by short line segments extend from the P t atom up and to the right and below and to the left to the N atom of N H subscript 3 groups. Similarly, two additional single bonds extend up and to the left and down and to the right to C l atoms.

The trans isomer of [Pt(NH3)2Cl2] has each ligand directly across from an adjacent ligand.

Another important type of isomers are optical isomers, or enantiomers, in which two objects are exact mirror images of each other but cannot be lined up so that all parts match. This means that optical isomers are nonsuperimposable mirror images. A classic example of this is a pair of hands, in which the right and left hand are mirror images of one another but cannot be superimposed.

Optical isomers are very important in organic and biochemistry because living systems often incorporate one specific optical isomer and not the other. Unlike geometric isomers, pairs of optical isomers have identical properties (boiling point, polarity, solubility, etc.). Optical isomers differ only in the way they affect polarized light and how they react with other optical isomers.

For coordination complexes, many coordination compounds such as [M(en)3]n+ [in which Mn+ is a central metal ion such as iron(III) or cobalt(II)] form enantiomers, as shown in the figure below. These two isomers will react differently with other optical isomers. For example, DNA helices are optical isomers, and the form that occurs in nature (right-handed DNA) will bind to only one isomer of [M(en)3]n+ and not the other.

Two structures are shown with a vertical dashed line segment between them. The structure left of this line segment has a central M representing a metal atom. To this atom, six N H subscript 2 groups are attached with single bonds. These bonds are indicated with line segments extending above and below, dashed wedges extending up and to the left and right, and solid wedges extending below and to the left and right. The bonds to these groups are all directed toward the N atoms. The N H subscript 2 groups are each connected to C atoms of C H subscript 2 groups extending outward from the central M atom. These C H subscript 2 groups are connected in pairs with bonds indicated by short line segments. This structure has the overall appearance of a flower with three petals, two of which are equidistant from the dashed line. A mirror image of this structure appears on the right side of the dashed line, again with two of the “petals” equidistant from the dashed line to its left.

The complex [M(en)3]n+ (Mn+ = a metal ion, en = ethylenediamine) has a nonsuperimposable mirror image.

The [Co(en)2Cl2]+ ion exhibits geometric isomerism (cis/trans), and its cis isomer exists as a pair of optical isomers (see the figure below).

This figure includes three structures. The first two are labeled “cis form (optical isomers).” These structures are followed by a vertical dashed line segment to the right of which appears a third structure that is labeled “trans form.” The first structure includes a central C o atom that has four N H subscript 2 groups and two C l atoms attached with single bonds. These bonds are indicated with line segments extending above and below, dashed wedges extending up and to the left and right, and solid wedges extending below and to the left and right. C l atoms are bonded at the top and at the upper left of the structure. The remaining four bonds extend from the central C o atom to the N atoms of N H subscript 2 groups. The N H subscript 2 groups are each connected to C atoms of C H subscript 2 groups extending outward from the central C o atom. These C H subscript 2 groups are connected in pairs with bonds indicated by short line segments, forming two rings in the structure. This entire structure is enclosed in brackets. Outside the brackets to the right is the superscript plus. The second structure, which appears to the be mirror image of the first structure, includes a central C o atom that has four N H subscript 2 groups and two C l atoms attached with single bonds. These bonds are indicated with line segments extending above and below, dashed wedges extending up and to the left and right, and solid wedges extending below and to the left and right. C l atoms are bonded at the top and at the upper right of the structure. The remaining four bonds extend from the central C o atom to the N atoms of N H subscript 2 groups. The N H subscript 2 groups are each connected to C atoms of C H subscript 2 groups extending outward from the central C o atom. These C H subscript 2 groups are connected in pairs with bonds indicated by short line segments, forming two rings in the structure. This entire structure is enclosed in brackets. Outside the brackets to the right is a superscript plus sign. The third, trans structure includes a central C o atom that has four N H subscript 2 groups and two C l atoms attached with single bonds. These bonds are indicated with line segments extending above and below, dashed wedges extending up and to the left and right, and solid wedges extending below and to the left and right. C l atoms are bonded at the top and bottom of the structure. The remaining four bonds extend from the central C o atom to the N atoms of N H subscript 2 groups. The N H subscript 2 groups are each connected to C atoms of C H subscript 2 groups extending outward from the central C o atom. These C H subscript 2 groups are connected in pairs with bonds indicated by short line segments, forming two rings in the structure. This entire structure is enclosed in brackets. Outside the brackets to the right is a superscript plus sign. This final structure has rings of atoms on opposite sides of the structure.

Three isomeric forms of [Co(en)2Cl2]+ exist. The trans isomer, formed when the chlorines are positioned at a 180° angle, has very different properties from the cis isomers. The mirror images of the cis isomer form a pair of optical isomers, which have identical behavior except when reacting with other enantiomers.

Linkage isomers occur when the coordination compound contains a ligand that can bind to the transition metal center through two different atoms. For example, the CN ligand can bind through the carbon atom (cyano) or through the nitrogen atom (isocyano). Similarly, SCN− can be bound through the sulfur or nitrogen atom, affording two distinct compounds ([Co(NH3)5SCN]2+ or [Co(NH3)5NCS]2+).

Ionization isomers (or coordination isomers) occur when one anionic ligand in the inner coordination sphere is replaced with the counter ion from the outer coordination sphere. A simple example of two ionization isomers are [CoCl6][Br] and [CoCl5Br][Cl].

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