18-electron rule

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18-Electron Rule

The 18-electron rule is a guiding principle used in chemistry and inorganic chemistry to understand the stability of metal complexes. This rule posits that transition metal complexes are most stable when the sum of their valence electrons and those of their ligands equals 18. This concept is analogous to the octet rule observed in main group elements, where atoms are most stable when they have eight electrons in their valence shell. The 18-electron rule is instrumental in predicting and explaining the stability and reactivity of organometallic complexes.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 18-electron rule is rooted in the electronic configuration of transition metals. Transition metals have valence electrons in their (n-1)d, ns, and np orbitals. The rule is derived from the maximum number of electrons that can occupy these orbitals, which is 18: (n-1)d^10 + ns^2 + np^6. This configuration is associated with a filled valence shell, leading to enhanced stability.

Application[edit | edit source]

The 18-electron rule is applied primarily to transition metal complexes, where the metal center forms covalent bonds with ligands. Ligands are molecules or ions that donate a pair of electrons to the metal center, forming a coordinate covalent bond. The total electron count (TEC) of a complex includes the electrons from the metal and those donated by the ligands. When the TEC reaches 18, the complex is considered to have achieved a stable electronic configuration.

Exceptions[edit | edit source]

While the 18-electron rule is a useful guideline, there are numerous exceptions. Some complexes are stable with fewer or more than 18 electrons due to factors such as the size of the metal, the electronic nature of the ligands, and the geometric arrangement of the ligands around the metal center. For example, bulky ligands may prevent the addition of enough ligands to reach 18 electrons, while highly electronegative ligands can stabilize complexes with more than 18 electrons.

Examples[edit | edit source]

A classic example of an 18-electron complex is ferrocene (Fe(C5H5)2), where the iron center is sandwiched between two cyclopentadienyl anions, each donating 5 electrons, along with the 8 d-electrons from iron, totaling 18 electrons. Another example is the tetracarbonylnickel(0) complex, Ni(CO)4, where the nickel atom donates 10 d-electrons, and each monodentate CO ligand contributes 2 electrons, summing up to 18 electrons.

Significance[edit | edit source]

The 18-electron rule is significant in the synthesis and design of new metal complexes in organometallic chemistry and catalysis. Understanding this rule allows chemists to predict the stability of complexes and to tailor catalysts with desired reactivity and selectivity for use in industrial and laboratory chemical processes.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD