|Chapter 7 : Stereochemistry|
Like conformational analysis (which
is a sub-branch of stereochemistry), stereochemistry has a language all of its
own associated with it.
A list and short description of key terms in the language of stereochemistry is provided below, more detailed descriptions are given within the appropriate chapter pages.
Stereochemistry is all about the 3D spatial aspects of chemistry.
Stereoisomers are molecules that differ only in the arrangement of bonds in 3D space.
Superimposable Many objects (including molecules) are indistinguishable from their mirror images, so they are superimposable.
Non-superimposable Other objects, such as your left and right hands, can be distinguished, they are non-superimposable.
Chiral An object that has a non-superimposable mirror image is said to be "chiral" (Greek = "handedness") and one that has a superimposable mirror image is "achiral".
If we restrict our thoughts to 2D
for a second, and think about letters of the alphabet, some are chiral while
others are not. To appreciate this, print some words on a piece of paper, then
look at them in a mirror. Do they still look the same (superimposable) or are
they different (non-superimposable) ?
Words like "MOM" are the same as the mirror image but "DAD" is not. That's why the word "AMBULANCE" on the front hood of the vehicle looks "odd" unless you are looking at it in your rear view mirror.
Enantiomers A pair of molecules that are non-superimposable mirror images of each other.
The most common type of "chirality" is observed when a carbon atom has four different groups attached to it (so it must be sp3 hybridised). This carbon atom is then described as a chirality center. Older terms are chiral, asymmetric or stereogenic center. This later term can also be contracted to a stereocenter.
Enantiomers have the same chemical and physical properties (melting points, boiling points, heat of combustion etc.), except for their interaction with plane polarised light or with other chiral molecules (reagents, solvents, catalysts etc). Think about how your feet feel if you put them in the wrong shoes - both your feet and shoes are chiral.
Diastereomers are stereoisomers that are not enantiomers.
The differing interaction with plane polarised light gives rise to optical activity. Enantiomers cause the plane of polarised light to rotate in opposite directions, but to the same extent (clockwise = +ve, counterclockwise = -ve). This can be measured using a polarimeter. An achiral molecule is optically inactive.
A 50:50 mixture of a pair of enantiomers is called a racemic mixture. This is optically inactive since the rotations produced by each of the enantiomers must cancel each other out.
If there is more of one enantiomer than the other, then the optical purity of a sample can be determined by measuring the rotation and comparing it to that of a pure enantiomer. This can be used to establish the enantiomeric excess (ee) of the mixture.
|© Dr. Ian Hunt, Department of Chemistry|