Coordination Chemistry

Unit code: CHEM10312
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by School of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit?: N




This course unit will develop an understanding of the fundamental chemistry of the s-, p- and d-block elements, and will enable students to apply the general principles of inorganic chemistry to a broad range of topics


Inorganic principles

To outline the fundamental parameter space of ‘inorganic’ chemical systems – to put d-block elements in the context of the Periodic Table and to demonstrate their characteristics

ILO: to explain the distinctive features of d-block in relation to the rest of the Periodic Table

  • Periodicity (the basics e.g. metal versus non-metal)
  • Quick revision of atomic/quantum theory – n, l, ml, ms, energy levels, radial distributions, screening and penetration, electronic configurations (free ion versus complexes)
  • Z*, IE, trends, radii, electronegativity, relativistic effects
  • Definition
  • General use and occurrence

Co-ordination complexes

To define the structural foundations of co-ordination complexes

ILO:  to translate the formula of a co-ordination compound into a geometric structure

  • Variance of oxidation states
  • Historical development
  • Formulae, nomenclature
  • Coordination number and geometry and bonding
  • Ligand types and coordination modes
  • Chelate effect, HSAB (hard and soft acids and bases), stability
  • Isomerisation
  • Working out formal charges, oxidation states, dn count

Bonding in co-ordination complexes

To describe structure and bonding in co-ordination complexes using:

(i)         Crystal field theory

(ii)        Molecular orbital theory

ILO: to describe bonding in co-ordination complexes via both CF and MO theories and to use these to distinguish the behaviour of 3d, 4d and 5d metal ions

  • CF theory (octahedral, tetrahedral, square planar), CFSE, HS/LS, factors that affect Δ
  • Spectrochemical series
  • Jahn-Teller effect
  • 1st vs 2nd/3rd row comparisons
  • Incorporating the MO approach
  • Introducing π-donors/acceptors and effects, e.g. phosphine ligands and cone angles
  • Ligands with many orbitals – non-innocent ligands

Electronic structure of co-ordination complexes

To rationalise electronic absorption spectra and magnetic properties of co-ordination compounds

ILO: to interpret and to assign electronic absorption spectra and magnetic measurements of co-ordination complexes in the context of structure and bonding

  • Optical spectroscopy of d-ions, selection rules, term symbols
  • Correlation diagrams
  • Applications: e.g. ruby laser, “Ru-bipy” photcatalyst
  • Magnetism (spin only and expected deviations from spin only)

Reactivity of complexes in solution

To explore the reactivity of co-ordination complexes

ILO: to describe and to explain solution phase reactivity of co-ordination complexes

  • Irving-Williams series, hydration, hydrolysis, oxidation states in aqueous solution
  • Substitution reactions and mechanisms, trans influence and effect
  • Redox properties

Metal-metal bonding

To introduce metal-metal bonding

ILO: to use metal-metal bonding to explain:

(i)         geometric and electronic structure of dimetallic complexes

(ii)        reactivity of dimetallic complexes

  • Metal-Metal Bonding
  • Examples, including [Re2Cl8]2−   

Teaching and learning methods

 Lectures, workshops, tutorials, in-class problems, PASS sessions

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, students should be able to:

- understand the basis of coordination chemistry of the 3d, 4d and 5d series

- interpret and predict chemical structure and reactivity of co-ordination complexes

- interpret and predict electronic properties of co-ordination complexes

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Data acquisition, processing 
  • Application of concepts to rationalize and organise facts
  • Solving problems by application of concepts to unseen contexts

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 100%

Recommended reading

  • J. Keeler and P. Wothers, Chemical Structure and Reactivity, 2nd Edition, OUP, especially Chapters 17 and 21
  • C. E. Housecroft and A. G. Sharpe, Inorganic Chemistry, 4th edition, Pearson
  • M. T. Weller, T.L. Overton, J.P. Rourke, and F.A.  Armstrong, Inorganic Chemistry, 6th edition, OUP
  • M.J. Winter, d-block Chemistry, 2nd edition, Oxford Chemistry Primers, OUP
  • M.J. Winter, Chemical Bonding, 2nd edition, Oxford Chemistry Primers, OUP

Feedback methods

  • Tutors will read tutorial work and provide feedback in tutorials.
  • PASS sessions.

Workshops will give students the opportunity to work through examples and receive in-class feedback



Study hours

  • Assessment written exam - 3 hours
  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Practical classes & workshops - 4 hours
  • Tutorials - 3 hours
  • Independent study hours - 70 hours

Teaching staff

Eric McInnes - Unit coordinator

▲ Up to the top