CIE A Level Chemistry (9701) exams from 2022

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6.3.5 Stereoisomerism in Transition Element Complexes

Geometrical & Optical Stereoisomerism in Complexes

  • Transition element complexes can exhibit stereoisomerism

 Geometrical (cis-trans) isomerism

  • Even though transition element complexes do not have a double bond, they can still have geometrical isomers
  • Square planar and octahedral complexes with two pairs of different ligands exhibit cistrans isomerism
  • An example of a square planar complex with two pairs of ligands is the anti-cancer drug cis-platin
    • Whereas cis-platin has beneficial medical effects by binding to DNA in cancer cells, trans-platin cannot be used in cancer treatment

Chemistry of Transition Elements - Cis-trans in Square Planar, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Cis-platin is an example of a square planar transition element complex that exhibits geometrical isomerism

  • As long as a complex ion has two ligands attached to it that are different to the rest, then the complex can display geometric isomerism
  • Examples of octahedral complexes that exhibit geometrical isomerism are the [Co(NH3)4(H2O)2]2+ and [Ni(H2NCH2CH2NH2)2(H2O)2]2+ complexes
    • [Ni(H2NCH2CH2NH2)2(H2O)2]2+ can also be written as [Ni(en)2(H2O)2]2+
  • Like in the square planar complexes, if the two ‘different’ ligands are next to each other then that is the ‘cis’ isomer, and if the two ‘different’ ligands are opposite each other then this is the ‘trans’ isomer
    • In [Co(NH3)4(H2O)2]2+, the two water ligands are next door to each other in the cis isomer and are opposite each other in the trans isomer

Chemistry of Transition Elements - Cis-trans in Octahedral (1), downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes Chemistry of Transition Elements - Cis-trans in Octahedral (2), downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Octahedral transition metal complexes exhibiting geometrical isomerism

Optical isomerism

  • Octahedral complexes with bidentate ligands also have optical isomers
  • This means that the two forms are non-superimposable mirror images of each other
    • They have no plane of symmetry, and one image cannot be placed directly on top of the other
  • The optical isomers only differ in their ability to rotate the plane of polarised light in opposite directions
  • Examples of octahedral complexes that have optical isomers are the [Ni(H2NCH2CH2NH2)3]2+and [Ni(H2NCH2CH2NH2)2(H2O)2]2+ complexes
    • The ligand H2NCH2CH2NH2 can also be written as ‘en’ instead

Chemistry of Transition Elements - Optical Isomerism in Octahedral, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Octahedral transition metal complexes exhibiting optical isomerism

Polarity of Complexes

  • The isomers of transition elements complexes may be polar or non-polar
  • This is caused by differences in electronegativity of the atoms in the ligands that form the dative bond to the complex ion

Polarity in square planar complexes

  • In cis-platin, the two chlorine atoms are on the same side
  • These atoms have a stronger pull on the electrons in the dative bond and will carry a partial negative charge
  • As a result, there is an imbalance of charge causing the complex to become polar
  • In trans-platin, the same ligands are on opposite sides of each other
  • The pull on electrons in the dative bonds to the complex ion are therefore balanced
  • The overall charge is balanced and the complex is non-polar
  • Trans-platin does not have the same benefits medically as cis-platin does

Chemistry of Transition Elements - Polarity in Square Planar Complexes, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Example of a square planar complex and its polar and non-polar geometric isomers

Polarity in octahedral complexes

  • Again, the trans-isomer in octahedral complexes is non-polar whereas the cis-isomer is slightly polar
  • In cis-[Co(NH3)4(H2O)2]2+ for example, the oxygen atoms in the H2O ligands are more electronegative than the nitrogen atoms in the NH3 ligands
  • This causes the side of the water ligands to be partially negative
  • Resulting in a charge imbalance causing the complex to become polar
  • The symmetrical arrangement in the trans isomers means that the charge is evenly distributed in the complex
  • Trans-isomers are therefore non-polar

Chemistry of Transition Elements - Polarity in Octahedral Complexes, downloadable AS & A Level Chemistry revision notes

Example of an octahedral complex and its polar and non-polar geometric isomers

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