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Transition metals Explaining complex ions, dative bonding, ligands, coordination number

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Appendix 2 Complexes of 3d block transition metals: An introduction: ligands, bonding, coordination number, charge and shape of complex ions and how to name them

What is a complex ion? What is a ligand? What do the terms monodentate ligand, bidentate ligand and polydentate ligand mean? What is the co–ordination number of a complex ion?  The structure of transition metal (3d–block) complexes is described with displayed formula diagrams and explanations include the formation of central metal ion – ligand dative covalent bonds. What shapes can complexes be? e.g. octahedral, tetrahedral, square planar and linear examples are presented.

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Three crucial definitions and terms to learn in connection with complex formation and understanding Appendix 2.

A ligand is a molecule or ion that forms a co-ordinate (dative covalent) bond with a central transition metal atom or ion by donation of a pair of electrons.

The ligand is effectively a Lewis base - an electron pair donor (: on formulae below), for the 1st transition series, the pair of bonding electrons is accepted into a vacant 3d, 4s or 4p orbital.

A unidentate (monodentate) ligand forms one co-ordinate bond per ligand with the central metal atom or ion.

e.g. water H2O:, ammonia :NH3, cyanide ion :CN-, chloride ion :Cl-, hydroxide :OH-

A bidentate ligand forms two co-ordinate (dative covalent) bonds per ligand with the central metal atom or ion.

e.g. ethanedioate ion -OOC-COO-  and the 1,2-diamoethane molecule H2NCH2CH2NH2

More detailed diagrams of these two ligands and their complex further down the page.

A polydentate ligand forms more than two co-ordinate (dative covalent) bonds per ligand with the central atom or ion.

e.g. (EDTA)4-, full structure of the (4-) ion, capable of donating 6 pairs of electrons to form 6 single covalent dative bonds.

If the ligand has more than one atom, the bonds within the ligand ion/molecule are sigma covalent and may also involve pi bonding.

A complex is the result of a central metal atom or ion (often a transition metal) surrounded by, and bonded to, a number of ligands e.g. often 2, 3, 4 or 6.

The metal ligand bond is a dative covalent bond (coordinate covalent bond), i.e. the bond is formed by an electron pair donation from the ligand (M:L bond).

Complexes can be cationic (+) e.g. [Ni(H2O)6]2+, anionic (-) e.g. [NiCl4]2–, or neutral (0) e.g. Ni(CO)4.

   

The style of the three diagrams above emphasizes the shape of the complex and bond angles and the three diagrams below emphasise the number of the coordinate ligand bonds, but should still convey the 2D/3D shape of the complex.

[H3N→Ag←NH3]+      

The co-ordination number is the number of co-ordinate bonds to the central metal atom or ion of the specific complex e.g. most often 2, 4 or 6, irrespective whether the ligand is a monodentate, bidentate or polydentate.

Note that the co-ordination number is only the same as the number of ligands if they are monodentate ligands.

These definitions and explanations are irrespective of the oxidation state of the central metal atom or ion.

All these points are illustrated below with lots of examples below.

INORGANIC Part 10 3d block TRANSITION METALS sub–index: 10.1–10.2 Introduction 3d–block Transition Metals * 10.3 Scandium * 10.4 Titanium * 10.5 Vanadium * 10.6 Chromium * 10.7 Manganese * 10.8 Iron * 10.9  Cobalt * 10.10 Nickel * 10.11 Copper * 10.12 Zinc * 10.13 Other Transition Metals e.g. Ag and Pt * Appendix 1. Hydrated salts, acidity of hexa–aqua ions * Appendix 2. Complexes & ligands * Appendix 3. Complexes and isomerism * Appendix 4. Electron configuration & colour theory * Appendix 5. Redox equations, feasibility, Eø * Appendix 6. Catalysis * Appendix 7. Redox equations * Appendix 8. Stability Constants and entropy changes * Appendix 9. Colorimetric analysis and complex ion formula * Appendix 10 3d block – extended data * Appendix 11 Some 3d–block compounds, complexes, oxidation states & electrode potentials * Appendix 12 Hydroxide complex precipitate 'pictures', formulae and equations

Advanced Level Inorganic Chemistry Periodic Table Index: Part 1 Periodic Table history * Part 2 Electron configurations, spectroscopy, hydrogen spectrum, ionisation energies * Part 3 Period 1 survey H to He * Part 4 Period 2 survey Li to Ne * Part 5 Period 3 survey Na to Ar * Part 6 Period 4 survey K to Kr and important trends down a group * Part 7 s–block Groups 1/2 Alkali Metals/Alkaline Earth Metals * Part 8  p–block Groups 3/13 to 0/18 * Part 9 Group 7/17 The Halogens * Part 10 3d block elements & Transition Metal Series * Part 11 Group & Series data & periodicity plots All 11 Parts have their own sub–indexes near the top of the pages


Appendix 2. Complexes – introduction: ligands, bonding, co–ordination number, charge on complex ions

  • A complex is formed by the combination of a central metal ion surrounded by, and bonded to, neutral molecules or ions acting as 'ligands' (bits stuck on or appendages).

    • If you have already read Appendix 1. you should note that it is riddled with hydrated aqueous complex ions and the central metal ion does NOT have to be a transition element. The two ligands involved were H2O and OH.

  • A ligand is an atom, ion or molecule which can act as an electron pair donor (Lewis base) and usually forms a dative covalent or 'co–ordinate' bond with the central metal ion.

    • The lone pair donation is usually from an O, N or halogen atom of the ligand in this covalent co–ordinate bonding.

    • The central metal atom or ion acts as a Lewis Acid, that is, an electron pair acceptor from the ligand by way of vacant 3d, 4s, 4p  and even 4d orbitals for the 3d–block transition elements.

    • The ligand acts as a Lewis Base, that is, an electron pair donor e.g.

      • neutral ligands like H2O: (water molecule, aqua in complex name)

        • e.g. the familiar blue hexaaquacopper(II) [Cu(H2O)6]2+

        • it has an octahedral shape, co-ordination number 6, charge 2+

        • Since the ligand is neutral, the overall charge is the same as that of the central transition metal ion.

      • or :NH3 (ammonia molecule, ammine in complex name, neutral ligand)

        • e.g. the hexaamminenickel(II) ion [Ni(NH3)6]2+

        • it has an octahedral shape, co-ordination number 6, charge 2+

        • or the diamminesilver(I) ion [Ag(NH3)2]+  or   [H3NAgNH3]+

        • which is a linear shape with a co-ordination number of 2, charge +

        • Note that and indicate the two co-ordinate bonds and the specific direction of electron pair donation to form the dative covalent bonds between the ligands and the central metal atom or ion.

        • The uncharged water and ammonia are similar sized ligand molecules and smaller than the chloride ion below.

        • The size of ligands can have a bearing on the resulting shape of the complex ion.

        • Again, these two other examples of neutral ligands mean the overall charge on the complex is the same as the central metal ion.

      • The carbon monoxide molecule can act as a neutral ligand electron pair donor.

        • e.g. in the neutral complex, nickel carbonyl Ni(CO)4

        • it has a tetrahedral shape, co-ordination number 4, no overall electrical charge

        • Here you have a neutral central atom (not an ion), a neutral ligand, so overall an electrically neutral complex.

      • and negatively charged ligands like :OH (hydroxide, hydroxo or hydroxy in complex name)

        • e.g. the hexahydroxochromate(III) ion [Cr(OH)6]3–

        • it has an octahedral shape, co-ordination number 6, overall charge 3- (+3 -6)

      • or Cl (chloride ion, chloro in complex name)

        • e.g. the tetrachloronickelate(II) ion, [NiCl4]2–

        • it has a tetrahedral shape, co-ordination number 4, overall charge 2- (+2 -4 = -2)

        • or the neutral diamminedichloroplatinum(II), [Pt(NH3)2Cl2]

        • which has co-ordination number of 4 and a square planar shape

        • cisplatin, no overall charge, 0 (+2 -2)

        • Note the presence of two different monodentate ligands and two E/Z isomers!

      • and :CN (cyanide ion, cyano in complex name).

        • e.g. the hexacyanoferrate(II) ion [Fe(CN)6]4–

        • it has an octahedral shape, co-ordination number 6, overall electrical charge of 4- (+2 -6)

    • All six ligands mentioned above are monodentate ligands, forming one bond each with the central metal atom or ion.

    • Complex ions undergo ligand exchange reactions (ligand displacement or ligand substitution reactions) e.g.

      • [Cu(H2O)4(OH)2](s) +  4NH3(aq)   [Cu(NH3)4(H2O)2]2+(aq) +  2OH(aq)  +  4H2O(l)

      • [Co(H2O)6]2+(aq)  +  4Cl(aq)   [CoCl4]2–(aq)  +  6H2O(l) 

      • There are lots more described on the separate transition metal pages e.g. Iron, Cobalt, Nickel & Copper

    • I've deliberately included in the examples above, the most typical monodentate ligands you will come across and the shapes and co-ordination numbers you are also most likely to encounter.

    • More on these examples and others below. (More details on molecule/ion shapes)

    • A an example of the bonding in a complex ion is shown in the above diagram. The negative cyanide ion is a monodentate ligand (forms one bond per ligand) and donates an electron pair into a vacant 3d, 4s or 4p orbital in the iron(III) ion to form six dative covalent bonds.

    • The resulting ion has the formula [Fe(CN)6]3–, the overall charge of 3– is the aggregate of 6– (cyanide ions) plus 3+ (iron ion)

    • The co–ordination number of 6, which means there are 6 central metal ion – ligand bonds. It doesn't necessarily mean six ligands, you can get a co–ordination number of 6 from three co–ordinated bidentate ligands (2 bonds per ligand), two tridentate ligands and from EDTA just one ligand can form 6 dative covalent bonds with a central metal ion.

    • More on this below.

      • The most common complex ion you will come across is the hexaaqua cation of many metals.

      • It has the general formula [M(H2O)6]n+

      • n, the charge on the central metal ion and hence the overall charge on the complex ion n is usually 2 or 3

      •  e.g. n = 2 for titanium(II), vanadium(II), iron(II), cobalt(II), nickel(II), copper(II) and also the Group 2 alkaline Earth metals magnesium, calcium etc.

      • and n is 3 for scandium, titanium(III), vanadium(III), chromium(III), iron(III), cobalt(III) and also aluminium from Group 3.

      • The six neutral water ligands form 6 dative covalent bonds with the central metal ion because the bonding pair of electrons comes from donation of a lone pair from the oxygen atom of the water molecule.

      • Therefore the co–ordination number is 6 and it has a symmetrical octahedral shape.

      • The O–M–O bond angles are all 90o or 180o.

  • The ligand may attach itself by one or more bonds. The suffix '...dentate', prefixed by mono/uni/bi/ploy/multi e.g. monodentate (unidentate), bidentate, or polydentate (multidentate) is used to denote the number of bonds each ligand makes with the central metal ion.

  • The total number of ligand bonds to the central metal ion is called the co–ordination number.

    • It is not the number of ligands, unless it is a monodentate ligand.

    • There is no firm rules relating shape to a particular ligand.

    • The six ligands don't have to be the same e.g. the cis/Z isomer of [CrCl2(H2O)4]+ complex ion.

      • ... which is the dichlorotetraaquachromium(III) ion. This octahedral complex with a co–ordination number of 6, and note this has an overall ion charge of (2 x – from 2Cl) + (3+ from Cr3+) = +, water is an electrically neutral ligand ...

        • ... and in equations the complex ion would be written as [Cr(H2O)4Cl2]+

  • Examples of unidentate/monodentate ligands:

    • e.g. above are shown two complexes with electrically neutral ligands: water H2O:, ammonia :NH3 and primary aliphatic amines like butylamine CH3CH2CH2CH2NH2

    • These ligands often form octahedralshaped complexes with a co–ordination number of 6.

    • e.g. negative ligands: chloride Cl, cyanide CN,

      • This is the structure of the complex ion hexacyanocobaltate(III), [Co(CN)6]3-.

    • The chloride ion Clforms the tetrahedrale.g. the tetrachlorocuprate(II) complex ion ...

    • [CuCl4]2–, note the overall charge is (2+) + (4 x –) = 2– and the co–ordination number is 4.

    • The chloride ion can be too bulky to form an octahedral complex or a square planar complex, though there is no firm rules relating complex shape to ligand.

    • and CN square planare.g. the tetracyanonickelate(II) complex ion ...

    • [Ni(CN)4]2–, note the overall charge is (2+) + (4 x –) = 2– and the co–ordination number is 4.

      • Note that [Cu(H2O)4]2+, is in the hydrated salt CuSO4.5H2O, the tetraaquacopper(II) ion, with the less bulky water molecule ligand, forms a blue square planar complex, whereas with the larger chloride ion, a tetrahedral complex is formed.

      • The 5th water molecule hydrogen bonds between the copper complex ions in the blue crystals.

    • A linearshaped complex is formed between a silver ion the ligands ammonia or cyanide.

      • cationic [H3N–Ag–NH3]+  and anionic [NC–Ag–CN]

    • [Ag(NH3)2]+ is formed in 'ammoniacal' silver nitrate solution used in the test for aldehydes.

      • The diamminesilver(I) ion has co–ordination number of 2 and an overall charge of a single + because the ammonia molecule is an electrically neutral ligand.

  • Examples of bidentate ('two toothed') ligands:

    • Neutral bidentate ligands: diamines like 1,2–diaminoethane (ethane–1,2–diamine) H2NCH2CH2NH2 (co-ordinate bonds via lone pair on the nitrogen atom :N). Note that this is an electrically neutral ligand like ammonia.

    • Negative bidentate ligands: ethanedioate ion C2O42–, (bonds via lone pair on the :O). The L represents where the dative covalent bond forms, L-L represents the bidentate ligand.

      • is derived from ethanedioic acid (oxalic acid),, so two co-ordinate bonds are formed by lone pair donation of electrons from two oxygen atoms.

    • shows three bidentate ligands co–ordinated to a central metal ion (co–ordination number 6, 'octahedral' in bond arrangement).

      • The L-M-L triangular bond system is known as a chelate ring.

    • Examples: [Cr(H2NCH2CH2NH2)3]3+, H2NCH2CH2NH2 is often represented in shorthand by en,

      • and the chromium(III) complex ion is then simply written as [Cr(en)3]3+.

      • All aliphatic linear diamines can act as bidentate ligands.

    • Bidentate ligands are the first of what are called polydentate ligands and such complexes are sometimes called chelates from the Greek for 'crab's claw' and the complex formation described as a chelation process.

illustrating chelation of a central transition metal ion by three bidentate ligands of the ethanedioate ion to give an anionic octahedral complex of coordination number 6

The two diagrams (above/below) illustrate the chelation of a central transition metal ion by three bidentate ligands as described in the two examples above, namely the ethanedioate an ion and the neutral 1,2-diaminoethane molecule. The L____L represents the bidentate ligand forming two dative coordinate covalent bonds with the central metal ion.

illustrating chelation of a central transition metal ion by three bidentate ligands of the 1,2-diamino molecule (ethane-1,2-diamine) to give a neutral octahedral complex of coordination number 6

  • More examples of multi/polydentate ligands:

    • EDTA is an acronym abbreviation for the old name of EthyleneDiamineTetraAcetic acid a

    • It used in the form of its disodium hydrated salt which is soluble in water (structure below).

    • (Na+-OOCCH2)(HOOCCH2)NCH2CH2N(CH2COOH)(CH2COO-Na+).2H2O

    • In solution it forms the chelating agent which can be considered to have the following structure

    • (-OOCCH2)2NCH2CH2N(CH2COO-)2  (diagram below of the 6 electron pair donor sites)

  • The anion from the sodium salt of EDTA is often shown as EDTA4– (for simplicity) and forms six co-ordinate bonds with a central metal ion and tends to displace most other ligands, mainly due to the increase in entropy e.g.

    • [Ni(NH3)6]2+(aq) + EDTA4–(aq) [Ni(EDTA)]2–(aq) + 6NH3(aq)

diagram illustrating structure of the (EDTA)4- anion forms 6 dative covalent bonds with central metal ion to give a complex ion in which bonds form an octahedral arrangement around central metal ion

  • The above diagram illustrates structure of the (EDTA)4- anion which can form 6 dative covalent bonds with a central metal ion to give a complex ion in which the 6 bonds form an octahedral arrangement around the central metal ion.

  • EDTA can be used to estimate the concentration of many metal ions in solution with a volumetric titration.  An indicator is used which forms a weak complex with the metal ion.  When all the free metal ions have been titrated with an EDTA solution and hence more strongly complexed, the indicator is displaced from its weak metal complex and a new colour is observed at the end-point.

  • For an examples of an EDTA titration questions see Q9(c) on non-redox titration problem solving

  • The haemoglobin (haem) molecule acts as a multi/polydentate ligand with iron(II) ions in blood chemistry.

  • Ligand displacement reactions

  • One ligand can replace another depending on the relative bond strengths in a reaction called a ligand exchange reaction.

  • When a bidentate or polydentate ligand is added to a pre–existing complex of monodentate ligands, it is highly likely a more stable complex will be formed.

    • This called the chelate effect, and the process is called chelation.

    • The overall enthalpy changes in breaking and making these co-ordinate bonds is not that great, so why the overpowering effect of bidentate and polydentate ligand molecules?

    • The principal reason for this, (ignoring bond strengths/energies), is the positive entropy change accompanying the 'release' of 4 or 6 small molecules which offer a greater variation of ways of arranging the particles or energy distribution.

  • If the ligands are easily exchanged, the complex is described as 'unstable' and if the ligands are more strongly bound, the complex would be described as stable.

  • Complex ion stability is also related to the oxidation state of the transition metal in the presence of a particular ligand.

  • See Appendix 3. for more on complex ion shape and isomerism.

  • See Appendix 5. for more on electrode potentials, oxidation state and complex ion stability.

  • See Appendix 8. for more on complex ion stability, entropy changes and stability equilibrium constants (Kstab).

  • See the individual transition metal pages below for examples of ligand exchange reactions.


Scandium * Titanium * Vanadium * Chromium * Manganese  Iron * Cobalt * Nickel * Copper * Zinc * Silver & Platinum

Introduction 3d–block Transition Metals * Appendix 1. Hydrated salts, acidity of hexa–aqua ions * Appendix 2. Complexes & ligands * Appendix 3. Complexes and isomerism * Appendix 4. Electron configuration & colour theory * Appendix 5. Redox equations, feasibility, Eø * Appendix 6. Catalysis * Appendix 7. Redox equations * Appendix 8. Stability Constants and entropy changes * Appendix 9. Colorimetric analysis and complex ion formula * Appendix 10 3d block – extended data * Appendix 11 Some 3d–block compounds, complexes, oxidation states & electrode potentials * Appendix 12 Hydroxide complex precipitate 'pictures', formulae and equations


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