A mechanistic study of the bimolecular nucleophilic substitution (SN2) reaction for halomethane CH3X (X = Cl, Br, or I) is approached by using symmetry principles and molecular orbital theory. The electrophilicity of the functionalized sp3–carbon is attributable
[...] Read more.
A mechanistic study of the bimolecular nucleophilic substitution (SN
2) reaction for halomethane CH3
X (X = Cl, Br, or I) is approached by using symmetry principles and molecular orbital theory. The electrophilicity of the functionalized sp3
–carbon is attributable to a 2p-orbital-based antibonding MO along the C–X bond. This antibonding MO, upon accepting an electron pair from a nucleophile, gives rise to dissociation of the C–X bond and formation of a new Nuc–C bond. Correlations are made between the molecular orbitals of reactants (Nuc-
X) and products (NucCH3
). Similar symmetry analysis has been applied to mechanistic study of the bimolecular b-elimination (E2) reactions of haloalkanes. It well explains the necessity of an anti-coplanar arrangement of the Cα
–X and Cβ
–H bonds for an E2 reaction (anti-elimination). Having this structural arrangement, the bonding Cα
) and antibonding Cβ
*) orbitals become symmetry–match. They can partially overlap resulting in increase in electron density in σC-H
*, which weakens and polarizes the Cβ
–H bond making the β-H acidic. An E2 reaction can readily take place in the presence of a base. The applications of symmetry analysis to the SN
2 and E2 reactions represent a new approach to studying organic mechanisms.