Blasts from the past: a snapshot of online content in chemistry, ~1994-1998.

September 28th, 2020

With universities around the world having to very rapidly transition to blended learning (a mixture of virtual and face-2-face experiences) with a very large component based on online materials, I thought it might be interesting to try to give one snapshot of when the online experience started to happen in chemistry.

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The Willgerodt-Kindler reaction. Completing the Box set.

September 7th, 2020

These four posts (the box set) set out to try to define the energetics for a reasonable reaction path for the Willgerodt-Kindler reaction. The rate of this reaction corresponds approximately to a free energy barrier of ~30 kcal/mol. Any pathway found to be >10 kcal/mol at its highest point above this barrier was deemed less probable. The first three efforts at defining such pathways all gave such a result. Here I try a fourth pathway in search of the hitherto elusive appropriately low energy barrier.

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High-performance polythioesters with high chemical recyclability.

September 2nd, 2020

Here I investigate a recent report[1] of a new generation of polyesters with the intrinsic properties of high crystallinity and chemical recyclability. The latter point is key, since many current plastics cannot be easily recycled to a form which can be used to regenerate the original polymer with high yield. Here I show some aspects of this fascinating new type of polymer.

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  1. C. Shi, M.L. McGraw, Z. Li, L. Cavallo, L. Falivene, and E.Y. Chen, "High-performance pan-tactic polythioesters with intrinsic crystallinity and chemical recyclability", Science Advances, vol. 6, pp. eabc0495, 2020.

Exploiting the power of persistent identifiers (PIDs) for locating all kinds of research object.

August 29th, 2020

The folks at DataCite have announced a new research object discovery service which aims to give users a “comprehensive overview of connections between entities in the research landscape”. The portal acts as the entry point for three basic types of persistent identifiers (PIDs);

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The Willgerodt-Kindler Reaction: mechanistic reality check 3. A peek under the hood for transition state location.

August 27th, 2020

The two previous surveys of the potential energy surface for this, it has to be said, rather obscure reaction led to energy barriers that were rather to high to be entirely convincing. So here is a third possibility.

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The Willgerodt-Kindler Reaction: mechanistic reality check 2.

August 14th, 2020

Continuing an exploration of the mechanism of this reaction, an alternative new mechanism was suggested in 1989 (having been first submitted to the journal ten years earlier!).[1] Here the key intermediate proposed is a thiirenium cation (labelled 8 in the article) and labelled Int3 below.

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  1. M. Carmack, "The willgerodt-kindler reactions. 7. The mechanisms", Journal of Heterocyclic Chemistry, vol. 26, pp. 1319-1323, 1989.

Question for the day – Einstein, special relativity and atomic weights.

July 25th, 2020

Sometimes a (scientific) thought just pops into one’s mind. Most are probably best not shared with anyone, but since its the summer silly season, I thought I might with this one.

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The Willgerodt-Kindler Reaction: mechanistic reality check 1.

July 21st, 2020

The Willgerodt reaction[1], discovered in 1887 and shown below, represents a transformation with a once famously obscure mechanism. A major step in the elucidation of that mechanism came[2] using the then new technique of 14C radio-labelling, shortly after the atom bomb projects during WWII made 14CO2 readily available to researchers. Here I am going to start the process of applying the far more recent technique of quantitative quantum mechanical modelling to see if some of the proposed mechanisms stand up to its scrutiny.

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  1. C. Willgerodt, "Ueber die Einwirkung von gelbem Schwefelammonium auf Ketone und Chinone", Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, vol. 20, pp. 2467-2470, 1887.
  2. W.G. Dauben, J.C. Reid, P.E. Yankwich, and M. Calvin, "The Mechanism of the Willgerodt Reaction1", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 72, pp. 121-124, 1950.

Curly arrows in the 21st Century. Proton-coupled electron transfers.

June 10th, 2020

One of the most fascinating and important articles dealing with curly arrows I have seen is that by Klein and Knizia on the topic of C-H bond activations using an iron catalyst.[1] These are so-called high spin systems with unpaired electrons and the mechanism of C-H activation involves both double headed (two electron) and fish-hook (single electron) movement. Here I focus on a specific type of reaction, the concerted proton-coupled-electron transfer or cPCET, as illustrated below. These sorts of reactions happen also to be of considerable biological importance, including e.g. the mechanism of photosynthesis and many other important transformations.

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  1. J.E.M.N. Klein, and G. Knizia, "cPCET versus HAT: A Direct Theoretical Method for Distinguishing X-H Bond-Activation Mechanisms", Angewandte Chemie International Edition, vol. 57, pp. 11913-11917, 2018.

Fascinating stereoelectronic control in Metaldehyde and Chloral.

June 9th, 2020

Metaldehyde is an insecticide used to control slugs. When we unsuccessfully tried to get some recently, I discovered it is now deprecated in the UK. So my immediate reaction was to look up its structure to see if that cast any light (below, R=CH3, shown as one stereoisomer).

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