HomeArticles28. Stereochemical Nomenclature; Racemization and Resolution
28. Stereochemical Nomenclature; Racemization and Resolution
August 18, 2019
today in the Times there was a report of a clinical
trial, which event,
the kind of thing we talked about on Friday.
This was of a statin,
which is like Lipitor. It’s a different one,
it’s Crestor. But they just reported that a
study of 18,000 people — so a very big clinical trial —
seemed to show that this, that it helped;
it reduced the risk of heart attack by a half for people who
didn’t have high cholesterol, but had another risk,
this C-reactive protein, CRP.
And it said in the story this
morning: “Like many clinical trials,
the Jupiter Study was sponsored by a pharmaceutical company,
in this case AstraZeneca. It makes the drug in the trial,
rosuvastatin, which is sold as Crestor.”
And then it says:
“Dr. Ridker, a co-inventor of a CRP test,
said he first sought federal financing for the study and was
turned down. He and other scientists
interviewed for this article, except for Dr. Nabel,
Dr. Gardner and Dr. Wolfe, have consulted for or received
research money from stain makers.”
I guess I should say that I’ve
occasionally gotten money from statin makers too,
but not for this kind of thing. Okay, so that’s interesting and
relevant to what we’re talking about.
But specifically what we’re
talking about now is nomenclature.
And last time we talked about
constitutional nomenclature, the rules people made up for
naming the nature and sequence of bonds.
But since arrangement in space
is also important, you have to be able to have
names for stereochemistry. And right now we’re interested
in configurational stereochemistry,
the kind that can only be changed by breaking bonds —
right? — whereas, as we’ll see soon,
conformational changes don’t require breaking bonds,
so typically are much easier to do.
So configurational isomers
include the tartaric acids that we’ve been speaking about,
that have these physical properties.
One has a unique melting point.
The other two are the same.
But those two differ by the
sign of the optical rotation of polarized light.
So the first one is meso.
Now how do we name these things?
One way is just to name them
according to the phenomenon, to what you observe.
So sometimes those two tartaric
acids that are enantiomers — mirror images of one another
but not superimposable — sometimes they’re referred to
as small d, or small l,
which stands for dextro, or levo,
and means right or left. And all it means is the
direction they rotate the plane of polarized light,
which you observe experimentally.
So there’s nothing more arcane
about that. Or you can say plus or minus,
meaning that they rotate light to the right or rotate light to
the left. And those are absolutely the
same thing, right? Dextro and plus;
levo and minus. Sometimes people use both
names, but they’re redundant. They both mean it rotates light
one way or the other. So it just describes the
phenomenon. So there’s nothing ambiguous
about that. It’s a perfectly good name.
But it doesn’t tell you what
model you should make to show it, which mirror image is which.
All you know is which way it
rotates light. So that’s phenomenological.
But there can be other names
that have to do with these Fischer projections we draw,
as to exactly which one is which.
So that one is clear enough.
That one has a mirror image —
is its own mirror image. There’s a mirror that goes
through the middle of it. So the top is the mirror image
of the bottom. It’s a mirror image of itself.
And that one’s clearly the meso.
But how about the others?
One of them will look one way
and one the other. But is there any fundamental
thing that we can understand that would tell us which will
rotate light to the right and which will rotate light to the
left? And I’ll tell you that I can’t
say that, and most people I know — in fact almost everybody I
know — can’t say that. But there are a few people who
think they can say that, and we’ll hear about one of
them soon, on Wednesday. But anyhow it’s a question.
Is it like — should it be
those for the right and the left-handed, the d and
the l, or those?
Which one is which?
Well Fischer decided that we
just have to have to names for this and we have to be able to
draw pictures, so let’s make a guess as to
which way it is. And he devised a new system of
naming which doesn’t depend on the phenomenon but depends on
genealogy; that is, synthesis.
You take a compound like
glyceraldehyde, which is small d and
+. What does that mean,
d and +? Student: The same thing.
Prof: For this?
There’s a particular bottle of
glyceraldehyde, which has that constitution.
And we’re going to label it
d-(+). And what does that mean?
Student: Does it rotate
light to the right? Prof: That it rotates
light to the right. But we don’t know exactly how
we should draw it — right? — the structure or its mirror
image. So, and d and + here,
remember, are redundant. They both just mean it rotates
light to the right. But Fischer went further.
He defined that particular
glyceraldehyde as capital D. There’s a different between
capital D and small d. Capital D is the name he used,
and that big D-glyceraldehyde, he guessed — the one that
rotates light to the right — he guessed had that structure,
which when drawn with a Fischer projection is that structure.
So that’s just a guess.
So he said this now gives us a
starting point. This glyceraldehyde,
which I’m going to call capital D, and I’m guessing has that
structure — I might be 100% wrong, right?
It might be the other one.
But let’s just make this guess
and then we’ll be able to talk about everything.
So what could you talk about?
You could do a multi-step
synthesis in which the carbons connected by the arrows are the
same carbon. That is, you redo the top half
of the molecule by doing chemical reactions,
the part that’s in green. So CHO becomes that much more
complicated thing. But you leave intact that
carbon on the bottom. So it’s the same in tartaric
acid as it was in D-glyceraldehyde,
whatever that was. And we’ll guess it’s this one,
with the OH on the right. Is everybody with me,
with the guess he made? So now if you can make that
particular tartaric acid isomer from D,
capital D, glyceraldehyde, then you say that that’s
D-tartaric acid, because you can make it from
D-glyceraldehyde. Any questions about that?
So it’s just what you make from
what. If you can make it from a
D-compound, you call it a D-compound, and the mirror image
would be the L-compound, capital L.
Student: Is he just
swapping the things in the green squares?
The arrows are a little
confusing. Prof: The swap — the
thing that’s in the green square on the bottom becomes the stuff
in the green square on the top. Obviously you have to add
another carbon and you have to add a couple of hydrogens and
some more oxygens. So you have to do some chemical
transformations. But the important thing is that
the thing on the top becomes the thing on the top,
and the carbons connected by the arrow are precisely the same
carbon. Student: Right.
So that one you know because
you know where it came from by genealogy.
So that tartaric acid you’ll
call capital D, according to Fischer.
But do you see a weakness in
this nomenclature scheme? Yeah, Sherwin?
Student: It’s dependent
on the structure, your knowledge of the structure
that he showed. Prof: Well of course it
could be 100% wrong. Everything could be the mirror
image of what we thought it was. Right?
That’s clearly a problem,
and that was well recognized by Fischer.
But maybe I didn’t understand
your question — did I? Student: Yeah,
that’s what I was saying. Prof: Okay.
Does anybody see another
Student: Capital D
isn’t very descriptive. Prof: It’s certainly not
descriptive in structure, except — unless you know what
d-glyceraldehyde is, then it’s descriptive.
But it’s not descriptive alone.
It’s only relative, right?
It’s only relative to the
d-glyceraldehyde. And you have to know how that
relation works. For example,
someone else might go into a lab and they want to prepare
tartaric acid from d-glyceraldehyde.
What might the other person do?
Student: Prepare it a
different way. Prof: Lucas,
I can’t hear. Student: Prepare it a
different way. Prof: Prepare it a
different way. So somebody else might put that
carbon into the one on the top and change the brown ones.
There could be other
transformations you do that would change the carbon on the
bottom to the carbon on the bottom,
and the carbon on the top is now the same as the one on
In which case it would be
exactly — that one on the left would be named capital D,
if you made it that way. Everybody see?
The genealogy would just be
So there’s a fundamental
problem here, that the capital D / capital L
designation is ambiguous, without having some detailed
synthesis recipe, or some agreement that people
say we’ll always make things this way rather than another
So it’s not — doesn’t have
meaning on its own. You have to know exactly how
you made the transformation. So that’s a pretty cumbersome
way to do names. But that’s what was done for
sixty years. Right?
Those were the names,
capital D and capital L; for sugars, for example,
for amino acids. Okay?
And it’s relative,
and it’s based on a guess. But in 1950 things changed.
Because in 1950 a man named
Bijvoet, an X-ray crystallographer at
Utrecht — in fact working in the van’t
Hoff Laboratory, the same building in which
van’t Hoff did the things in 1874 —
Bijvoet determined the crystal structure of sodium rubidium
salt — remember, there are two
carboxylic acids in tartaric acid.
So the sodium rubidium salt of
d (small d)-L-tartrate. What does the small d
Student: It reflects
the light of the — Prof: It rotates the
plane of polarized light, or twists it to the right.
And what does the capital L
Student: Previously we
said it rotated it to the left. Prof: I couldn’t hear
very well. Student: That
previously we assumed that it would rotate it to the left.
that’s not true. Or maybe I didn’t understand
“previously,” what you mean.
Student: Like well,
the model we were just talking about with Fischer.
it’s what we talked about with Fischer,
that he was able to make this tartaric acid from
l-glyceraldehyde, from the enantiomer of what we
talked about before. So it was related by that
particular synthesis to l-glyceraldehyde.
So there’s no conflict between
saying d and L. Right?
It rotates light to the right
— that’s the small one — but it’s genealogically related to
But he was able to use a very
special kind of X-ray technique, called anomalous dispersion,
which we don’t have time to talk about right now.
But it was able to show exactly
which way the atoms were oriented.
And this is the picture he drew.
So clearly on the top is C,
two Os, right?; a carboxylate group.
On the bottom a carboxylate
group. The middle two carbons each
have an H and an O on them. The O is stippled,
so you see what it is. And it’s clear the way you draw
it what’s coming out — the way he drew it, what’s coming out
toward you and what’s going back in.
Now here’s what Fischer had
guessed, sixty years before, for L-tartrate,
what he called L-tartrate. Was Fischer right or wrong?
How about the top carbon that
has OH on it, the HCOH?
Is it the same as in the model
that Bijvoet published? Does it agree or not?
Yes, it agrees.
The OH is coming out toward you
and to the right, same as in Fischer’s picture of
the top carbon. Everybody got that?
How about the bottom carbon?
The bottom carbon,
Fischer has it going to the left and Bijvoet has it going to
the right; this one here.
That’s going to the right from
this carbon. Fischer’s drawing it to the
left. Do they disagree?
Prof: Who said something?
Do they agree or disagree?
what do you say? What does Fischer mean by this
bond here, the CH bond? Which is it,
going out toward you, the H, or back in?
The Fischer projection,
which is shown here. It’s got vertical bonds and
horizontal bonds. Which one is coming out toward
you, from the carbon? Okay.
Student: In a Fischer
projection the bonds are going into the board.
Prof: Which bonds?
carbon-carbon bonds. Prof: The carbon-carbon
bonds are going into the board; that’s Fischer’s convention,
yeah. Student: Because he
twisted them so that everything else would be coming out of the
board. Prof: Yeah,
so these two are coming out of the board.
How about in Bijvoet’s picture?
For the second carbon — here’s
the first one, here’s the second one.
Student: The OHCs are
going into the board. Prof: Ah ha.
So, to make it like Fischer,
you have to rotate it so they’re coming out of the board.
So in fact they do agree.
It’s just that Bijvoet’s is
made realistically, and Fischer’s was made with
these rubber tubing bonds and you had to bend it to get that
way. But it’s the same configuration.
So Fischer was right.
So these structures that had
been drawn for sixty years were drawn correctly.
They could’ve — it was a 50:50
chance that it could’ve been the other way around.
But thank God he was right,
so we don’t have to go back and correct everything,
and know whether things were written before 1950 or after
Student: But don’t you
think that if you rotate that molecule,
isn’t the OH that’s coming, that’s like each —
his drawing coming out of the board,
doesn’t that go back in? Prof: Okay,
if you rotate this molecule by 180° around the vertical
axis, then this carbon — with
respect to the carbon we’re interested in here —
this carbon would be going back into the board and this carbon
would be going back into the board.
That’s the way these are.
But in the process of that
rotation, this OH, that was back and to
the right, after 180°
rotation about the vertical axis,
will be out in front and to the left;
which is the way it’s drawn in the Fischer Projection.
Student: So the other
OH group would be going back in? Prof: Yeah,
but you don’t care. This is just to show the
When you do that rotation,
yeah, these will do the other. But the point is that Fischer’s
structure was right, with respect to each carbon,
about what’s going which way, which tetrahedron it is.
Okay, so that’s fine.
And then Bijvoet wrote,
or in the same paper he wrote: “The question of
nomenclature is beyond the scope of our investigation.”
(He’s just doing the X-ray to
find out which way it is.) “The problem of
nomenclature now concerns given configurations”
(now you know which one it is you want to show) “and
requires a notation which denotes these configurations in
an unambiguous and if possible self-explanatory way.”
So you don’t need to know how
it was synthesized or anything. Now you know how it really is
— right? — what name are you going to
give to it so people can know, just from the name,
which way it is. Now, this is related to the
idea of naming configurations involving double bonds.
So we’re going to first show
you how you do that — which actually came second —
and then we’ll go back to see how they named the configuration
at a tetrahedral carbon. So malic acid,
from apples, has that structure shown,
and if you heat it you lose water and get a double bond.
But you get two isomers,
maleic and fumaric acids. And you’ll remember we showed
that before, that van’t Hoff made those with his models.
And one of them has the two
COHs near one another and one has them farther from one
another. And we can draw them that way
as well; near on the left and far on the
right. And if you heat these molecules
further, the one on the left can lose water and form an
anhydride, but not the one on the right.
Why not the one on the right?
It’s pretty obvious.
Student: They’re too
far apart. Prof: They’re too far
apart. So you know which one they’re
close together and which one they’re far apart.
So that experiment proves which
is which. It’s not as hard as the case of
the right and left-hand, where you had to do this very
special X-ray technique. So it was known that maleic
acid was the one that can form an anhydride,
and therefore had them on the same side.
And that was called cis,
meaning on this side of, and the other one was called
So that was a perfectly good
nomenclature for those two isomers of the dehydrated malic
acid. Maleic was cis and
fumaric acid was trans. So these names were used for a
very long time, but they weren’t really good
names. And the reason,
you can see, by looking at this molecule.
Is this one,
would you call it cis or trans?
Same side or opposite side?
Andrew, what do you say?
Student: I don’t know.
Prof: Next Andrew.
This is our nomenclature
problem. Student: I think
trans. Prof: Would you call it
trans, you say?
Student: I would
probably call it — Prof: This one here.
that one, I would call it cis.
Student: Because of the
CH_3’s. Prof: Because the CH_3’s
are next to one another. So you might call it cis.
On the other hand,
if you wanted to say how this end is related to the acid,
you’d say it’s trans, right?
So that means it’s — as an
absolute nomenclature, it’s very hard to generalize
this because you have to know which one you’re picking,
to say it’s cis or trans.
It’s fine to talk about the
relative configuration, to say the methyl on the left
is cis to the methyl on the right,
or to say the methyl on the left is trans to the
COOH. That’s fine.
But as to whether to say the
molecule itself is cis or trans,
you have to know which one you’re talking about,
on the right. So that’s another thing where
you’re going to have to have some convention or something.
And the way people decided to
do it was this. You assign the groups at each
end, take one end and then the other end of the double bond,
and assign priority. So you say we’re going to give
higher priority to one group or the other, and that’s the one
we’re going to use for the name. So on what basis might you
assign a priority to a group; to say which group has higher
priority, CH_3 or H? Which one do you think should
have higher priority? Students: CH_3.
Prof: CH_3, okay.
How about on this end,
CH_3 or COOH, which should have higher
priority? Students: COOH.
Student: It’s heavier.
Prof: It’s heavier.
Now let’s think about how that
is going to work out. So we’ll assign them by atomic
number; or atomic weight,
if we have two that are different isotopes of one
But we won’t sum up the atomic
numbers of all the groups that are in that;
that is, we won’t sum up C and O, and O and H,
and C and 3 Hs. Why not sum them all up and
then see which one has higher total atomic number?
What’s wrong with that?
Student: It’s tedious.
Prof: It’s tedious,
it’s cumbersome, to have to add it all up.
So what rule are you going to
do? Student: Find a
difference. Prof: You’ll go until
you find a difference, go out until you find a
difference. Once you find a difference you
stop, so you don’t have to go everywhere.
So at the first difference;
the same as we said with numbering last time,
right? Okay, so on the left,
in each case, you have a carbon compared to a
hydrogen as the thing that’s immediately attached.
Carbon has higher priority,
higher atomic number. On the right,
it begins with a tie. Incidentally,
we’re going to have to deal with double bonds,
COOH, at the bottom. Right?
The way you do it,
just by convention, there’s nothing — God didn’t
write this on the tablets, right?
It’s — you just pretend that
there are two of those atoms, when there’s a double bond;
just pretend. Okay, so now we compare the top
with the bottom. If we go to the first step,
it’s carbon versus carbon. It’s a tie.
So we’re going to have to go
further. When we go to the next level we
see on the left it’s oxygen versus hydrogen.
And oxygen is higher.
We don’t have to go any
further, we’ve found a difference.
So forget the rest of it.
Everybody with me?
Okay, so we might say the one
on the left is trans and the one on the right is
cis. However, people,
for sixty years, or longer in this case,
have been using the names cis and trans to
mean one thing or another, and sometimes we’ll agree with
them and sometimes we don’t; which is going to cause great
confusion as to whether you’re using a pre-1950 name or a
post-1950 name, and at least half the compounds
are going to be wrong. Right?
So the names trans and
cis have been polluted by previous usage.
So we’re going to have to have
new names. Yeah Lucas?
Student: You don’t
really have — in the second part of the
double bond, as a substituent,
and that itself is like cis or trans.
Prof: You’d mirror all
— you’d duplicate all those as well.
Okay, so this one was used with
a German root, because the guys from
Switzerland were doing this, entgegen,
which means opposed. And the one on the right,
so it’s E when they’re trans,
when they’re opposite one another.
And when they’re adjacent to
one another it’s called together, zusammen,
Z. I’ve always thought this is a
real pity that it wasn’t the other way around.
So I hope this doesn’t confuse
you. Because these are on the same
side and these are on opposite sides.
But it’s just backwards from
that. So just remember that it’s
So Z means together and
E means apart. Okay, that’s the name we use
for there. Okay, now notice that in
assigning priority, as we said, just to belabor
this is a little bit, you proceed one shell at a
time. So we saw a tie when it was
carbon versus carbon, and when it was three oxygens
versus three hydrogens, it was obvious that the top
wins. But now let’s go to this case.
Okay, now carbon versus carbon,
that’s a tie. We go out further,
three oxygens beat a carbon and two hydrogens.
But there are chlorines on the
The chlorine is really high
But it’s irrelevant,
because the decision has already been made.
So you respect earlier
You only go as far as you need
to go, to see a difference. Okay, I think we’ve said that
enough. Now these are the guys that
invented the scheme to name handedness.
It’s called the CIP Priority
Scheme. And the C is R.S. Cahn,
and the I is C.K. Ingold — both of them are from Britain —
and the P is Vladimir Prelog, who’s in Switzerland,
although he’s a native of Yugoslavia.
Now, these were — many people,
particularly synthetic chemists, would consider Robert
Robinson and R.B. Woodward the greatest organic chemists of the
20th century. They both thought they were
probably the greatest individual one.
So I love this picture,
taken by Jack Roberts of them at a seminar at MIT around this
same time, because they sort of aren’t looking at one other.
What’s Robinson looking at?
Robinson is looking at Ingold,
whom he really despised, and vice-versa.
There was no love lost between
Ingold and Robinson. And this is illustrated by an
account that Prelog gave in his autobiography.
He encountered Robinson in the
airport in Zurich. Robinson was on his way to a
meeting in Israel. Robinson: “Hello
Katchalsky. What are you doing here in
Zurich?” Prelog: “Excuse me,
Sir Robert, I am only Prelog; I live here.”
(He got a Nobel Prize too,
Prelog.) “I am only Prelog and I
live here.” Robinson: “You know
Prelog, your and Ingold’s configurational notation is all
wrong.” Prelog: “Sir Robert,
it can’t be wrong. It is just a convention.
You either accept it or
not.” Robinson: “Well then if
it’s not wrong, it’s absolutely
So anyhow, the point of this
slide is that it’s a convention. There’s not right and wrong
about it. It’s that they propose rules,
and those are the rules that people have adopted.
And that’s how you give a name
to the absolute configuration of a stereogenic carbon.
And for fun,
for Wednesday, you can try this exercise,
going back to this medieval manuscript,
and using the figures in it to devise your own convention to
describe chirality. So you can put yourself in the
position of Cahn, Ingold and Prelog.
Okay, so here’s the
Cahn-Ingold-Prelog R/S nomenclature scheme for
stereogenic centers. First you have to decide on
each of these carbons — which are mirror images,
you see, of one another — which atoms have which priority.
So let’s start on the left.
What’s the highest priority for
a substituent on the central carbon?
There are four groups.
Which has the highest priority?
Prof: Which one?
Student: I thought it
was OH. Prof: OH.
Yeah O is the highest atomic
number. What’s the lowest?
Prof: H, right?
There’s also a D there.
It’s the same atomic number;
hydrogen and deuterium. Which one should be higher?
heavier. If it’s isotopes,
you take the heavier one. Okay, so here’s one,
four, three, two.
That’s the priorities;
and analogously on the right. And now we have to decide
whether they’re — which one to call right and which one to call
left. And the way you do it,
one way of doing it, is to take a thing like this
where I have these red, yellow, green,
blue; red, orange,
yellow, green, blue, right;
the order of the spectrum, red, yellow,
green, blue. And I make a spiral that
connects them, like that.
And now, is that conventionally
what you call a right-handed or a left-handed spiral?
You know, if you look at it,
if I turned it like this, it would move this way.
So screws are called
right-handed and left-handed screws.
And the reason is that the —
you know, toe-bone connected to the foot-bone kind of thing.
The way your arm is put
together, for right-handed people it’s easier to drive a
screw like this. Right?
So that’s conventionally called
a right-handed screw. So this you would call
Now, if you can’t remember from
how to turn a screwdriver, you can look at — you can do
this trick with your hand. You put your thumb along the
direction of the lowest priority;
hydrogen, in this case. So it’s coming out of the
board, right? And you curl your fingers.
And you notice it goes one,
two, three, and then four. So that one on the left is
left-handed. Everybody see how I did that?
Curl your fingers,
they go one, two, three, four.
So that’s a left-handed one.
The one on the right,
if you do it this way, you — so that’s.
And you call it,
not left, you call it S, for the Latin sinister.
So it’s not going to get
confused with D and L and so on,
that have already been used. It’s a new way of doing it.
So that one’s S.
And the one on the right,
if I put my thumb so it goes back toward the H,
and curl my fingers, I go from one to two to three.
So that one is called R
for rectus; Latin for right.
Now there’s another — there
are lots of tricks to do this. If you don’t like doing it that
way, you can do it this way. Pretend that this is a steering
wheel of a car, and the H is going back in.
So here I’m — this one on the
right — I’m sitting here driving a car like this and the
H is going away from me. Everybody got that?
And I notice that I go one,
two, three. Right?
That’s going to turn the car to
the right. Everybody see that?
So, and this one will turn the
car to the left, if I turn the wheel to go from
O to C to D. Okay?
So that one’s a left turn and
that one’s a right turn. So whatever works for you is
fine. And I can assure you that on
some test I’m going to look out and see people with their papers
there and so on, and they’re going to be going
like this. Right?
Because it’s a handy way to do
Okay, so let’s try it on
tartaric acid. Here, let’s do the top carbon
of tartaric acid. Okay?
So we’ve got to decide on the
priority of the groups here. Here’s one group,
another group, another group,
another group. Which is the highest priority?
Prof: OH is the highest,
right? O is the highest.
Now we got two carbons that are
tied. Which one’s going to win,
top or bottom? Student: Top.
Prof: Top you say Kate?
Student: A tie.
Student: Because it has
— well we can pretend three oxygens, whereas the bottom one
has a hydrogen, a carbon, and an oxygen.
Prof: And only one
oxygen, right? So the one on the top has —
not more oxygens, but it’s got the oxygens
So we don’t have to go as far.
So this is going to be one,
two, three, four. Okay, now let me see your hands
operating. Put a thumb along the H,
the direction the H goes, and curl your hands one,
right, top, bottom, one,
two, three, and tell me whether that’s right or left-handed?
How many think left?
How many think right?
This is a democracy,
the rights have it; they’re also correct.
Okay, that one’s one,
four, two, three. Okay, that, it’s right-handed.
And the bottom one’s also
right-handed. Why didn’t I have to take a lot
of time to have you do this, to do the bottom one?
Why does the bottom one follow,
if you know the top one? Because you can rotate the
thing 180° and it’s the same,
and that will change the top into the bottom.
So whatever the top is,
the bottom’s the same thing. So the name of this is,
in parentheses, (2R, — carbon two is
R; carbon three is also R),
then dash (-), 2,3-dihydroxybutanedioic acid.
Okay, so now we have a scheme
that does that. And notice, this is the gate
into the new Chemistry building, just up Prospect Street,
and it’s got things that relate to the different branches of
chemistry on it. And this one is those carbon
tetrahedra with the spiral on it that says which handedness it
is. There are both right and
left-handed ones there. Okay.
If you start with a molecule,
which maybe you’ve gotten from nature,
that’s all one hand, like lactic acid,
from milk, (R)-lactic acid, there are processes which
convert it into a 50:50 mixture of R and S.
suppose you had a base and it could pull off a hydrogen.
What hydrogen would it pull off
from this molecule, a base?
What is the most reactive group
here?>Prof: Or another way of
saying it, this is a high HOMO. What’s the low LUMO going to be?
Well there’s several low LUMOS.
There’s the CO double bond,
π*. That’s a good one, right?
However, it won’t get you
anyplace. You can put it on,
come off again. Okay?
Or there’s σ* OH
here, but there’s also σ* OH here.
But this one’s better because
it’s next to the π*. Right?
So this — that’s why it’s
called an acid. You already knew that.
And you can lose the H+ and get
down to this. Okay, and that’ll go on off,
on off, on off, a long time.
nothing special there. But once in a long while —
that’s easy to do — once in a long while you might pull off
the wrong hydrogen; you might pull off this one.
So that’s not nearly as easy.
But when it happens it’s
interesting, for two reasons. One is, it’s not as bad as you
might’ve thought, because it’s adjacent to this
π*, which means that the vacant
orbital here can stabilize that high HOMO.
Which means you can draw that
resonance structure, with a double bond there.
So it’s hard,
but it’s not as hard as it might be.
Once in awhile that’ll happen,
and usually it’ll go back again.
But what’s especially
interesting — well just as a footnote, it’s possible to pull
both of them off. But that would be very unusual,
to make a di-anion, which is high in energy,
because you’re putting so many electrons close to one another.
But what’s relevant for our
purposes is that that molecule is planar.
So it’s not handed.
This one had a chiral carbon in
it, but this one doesn’t have an asymmetric carbon,
a stereogenic carbon. So this one,
the one in the middle, is neither right nor left.
So if you go from right to
something that isn’t right or left, you can come back,
put the hydrogen on. The hydrogen comes from the
front of the screen, goes on to where the minus
charge is, and you’re back to the left.
But the hydrogen could’ve come
from the back of the screen, at the same carbon,
and that would give the one on the right,
and would be (S)-lactic acid.
So after a long time of
heating, with base, you can take one that’s all
R and have it become 50:50, R and S.
And that process is called
racemization. Why would it be called
racemization? Because it makes a racemic
mixture; a 50:50 mixture from something
that was pure. Okay, that’s interesting.
But what may be more
interesting is — well this is just a footnote on that.
If you here,
to go from (R,R)-tartaric
acid, to meso-tartaric acid, you change just one such
hydrogen. The one here has been taken off
and put back on the other side, to give that one.
So that’s not racemization,
you’re not going to a 50:50 mixture of the two hands,
right? So it has a different name.
It’s called epimerization.
That’s just for vocabulary.
But what’s more interesting
than racemization is the reverse, to start with a 50:50
mixture and go to all one. And that’s the main subject for
the rest of what we’re going to be talking about,
before the exam. Okay, so you start with
(R,S) and you separate it into R and
S, in separate vials. So you have just the one you
want. Okay, one way we’ve already
seen of doing that was Pasteur. A conglomerate is a mixture of
crystals where each crystal is all one hand or all the other
hand; but it’s a 50:50 mixture of
such crystals. So there’s no net handedness to
But then if you,
if you have a situation like that —
notice you wouldn’t have that, if the crystals had a
right-handed molecule, and then a left-handed,
and then a right-handed, and then a left-handed;
you couldn’t pick it apart because you can’t separate one
molecule from another. Right?
But if all crystals are
right-handed, and some crystals are all
left-handed — right? — then in principle you can
pick them apart. And that’s precisely what
Pasteur did when he noticed it. Right?
So you can separate them.
And there are tricks that can
help you do it even better, or more easily,
when the crystals — when the things crystallize as
all right-handed or all left-handed.
One is to start with molecules
in solution and have only one form crystallize and have the
other one stay in solution. Then all you have to do is
filter it. Okay?
And how can you do that?
It’s because — and
chiral-resolved poison is another one, which will keep one
form from growing, so that only one form
crystallizes. How do you do that?
Here’s a crystal which is in
solution. And suppose it’s exactly at
equilibrium; so it neither dissolves nor
crystallizes. It’s exactly at equilibrium,
it’s saturated. Okay, now the interior
molecules of the crystal are very stable, because they have
exactly the right environment. Right?
They’re more stable than the
ones in solution. The ones on the surface are not
so stable, because they don’t have the neighbors — all the
neighbors they need. Right?
But the average molecule is
exactly the same as in solution. So it just sits there,
it’s at equilibrium with solution.
Now, so that’s the situation we
have. That’s the temperature and
concentration, so that this crystal is exactly
at equilibrium with solution. Now suppose that you had a
smaller crystal. Would it also be at equilibrium
with solution; if it were smaller?
Or do you see any difference?
The smaller one has a higher
fraction of molecules on the surface.
What does that mean?
The molecules on the surface
are less stable than the ones inside.
If the average molecule here is
precisely the same as the ones in solution, so it just sits
there, how about this one? The average molecule is less
stable than the ones in solution.
So what will it do?
Student: It’ll dissolve.
Prof: It’ll dissolve.
Okay, so a small one dissolves.
This one just sits here.
So that’ll go away.
And so as time goes on it gets
smaller and smaller, the faces move in.
How about this one,
what will it do? Student: It’ll grow.
Prof: It’ll grow,
because it’s more stable in solution.
So that one grows,
that small one shrinks. And this one in the middle is
called the — is metastable. We defined it as being stable,
as just sitting there. Right?
But it’s metastable.
If it gets any smaller it’ll
shrink. If it gets any larger it’ll
So you have to get a crystal
that size, called the “critical size”
before the crystal will grow. Right?
So this suggests a way of
getting only one form to grow. You have a solution,
that’s racemic, 50:50.
But there are no crystals in
there that are big enough to grow.
Can you see what you can do?
You add a little fairy dust,
right? Powdered crystal of one of the
two forms, but have them be big enough to grow.
So only those will grow.
And then you can filter it and
you have just that one. And that’s done industrially,
as a way of getting just one form, to separate the two forms;
a means of resolution. Okay, and the other way is to
add a poison that will absorb on one and keep it from growing.
Okay, so that’s one way that’s
actually used industrially, as well as in the lab.
Another way is to form
temporary diastereomers. Because remember,
the right and the left are mirror images.
So almost all their properties
are the same; like their solubility.
But suppose you put something
else with it. Like here, let’s shake hands
Josh. Here, does that feel normal?
Prof: It feels weird,
right? Student: Very weird.
Prof: That feels good.
So right with right is
different from right with left. Right?
It’s a different property.
So if what I did was make
diastereomers by adding something else to these
molecules, which itself is only one hand,
like right, now I’ll have things that
reacted that are right with right,
and things that are reacted right with left.
And what’s the relationship
between those new things? Are they enantiomers?
Right with right,
right with left, and now I’m comparing RR with
RS. What’s the relation?
Are they mirror images?
they’re not mirror images. They’re just different.
They’re different solubility,
different boiling point — everything will be different —
different reactivity. Right?
So on the basis of that I can
separate them. But if I did it in such a way
that now I can remove that thing I added, now after the
separation I can go back and have the original things
So temporary diastereomers.
One way to do it is
chromatography. So the stuff that I put in the
chromatography column can be all one hand.
I put the new stuff on —
that’s the packing of the column.
I now run stuff through it.
One absorbs more strongly than
the other, doesn’t move as fast. So one will come out the bottom
of the column faster. That’s one way of making
temporary diastereomers; or making a compound with a
chiral-resolved mate. Okay, for example,
this allenic compound that we saw before that proved van’t
Hoff was right, this is how it was actually
resolved, how it was separated.
So it says at the top they used
alkaloids. An alkaloid is an organic base,
isolated from plants, and the plants made only one
hand of it. And so you use it to make a
diastereomeric salt with a racemic mixture of right and
left-handed acids. So now you have two salts —
right-right salt and right-left salt — and they’ll have
different solubilities, and you can crystallize.
So here’s what happened.
that’s one of these alkaloids. And you see it has all those
centers, stereogenic centers. So it’s chiral,
just one hand, because you got it from nature.
And now you mix 4.7 grams of
the acid and 5.2 grams of brucine, which means that there
is about a 1:1 ratio. So you have both salts there.
And now you crystallize,
you get a solid salt, and it weighed 4 grams,
which means you got 42% yield — right?
— about half of the stuff out.
And that stuff then you — and
you recrystallize it, to make sure it’s pure,
that salt you got out. The melting point didn’t
change, it was already pure. Liberate the acid by shaking it
with hydrochloric acid and ether.
Now you’ve got the acid;
and it melted 145 to 146, and its rotation was
+29.5°. And it recrystallized and
didn’t change it. It was pure.
And it turns out that the other
one melts 144 to 146°. And so it’s the same melting
point essentially, but exactly the opposite
rotation. So they manage the separation
by making salts that were diastereomeric — so they had
different solubility — and then take the salts apart again.
And Pasteur figured a way of
doing this, in this story, which I suspect is not a true
story. Now I’m going to stop here.
But we’re going to have —
mostly what’s on Wednesday’s lecture is not going to be on
the exam. But there’s a little more here
that I’m probably going to make available for the exam;
that I’ll talk about on Wednesday.
And I’ll have to think over
just how much more it’s going to be.
Not too much more probably.
So we’ll see you on Wednesday.
Most of what’s on Wednesday
won’t be on the exam.