The role of isovalency in the reactions of the cyano (CN), boron monoxide (BO), silicon nitride (SiN), and ethynyl (C2H) radicals with unsaturated hydrocarbons acetylene (C2H2) and ethylene (C2H4)

Chem Soc Rev. 2014 Apr 21;43(8):2701-13. doi: 10.1039/c3cs60328h. Epub 2014 Jan 14.


The classification of chemical reactions based on shared characteristics is at the heart of the chemical sciences, and is well exemplified by Langmuir's concept of isovalency, in which 'two molecular entities with the same number of valence electrons have similar chemistries'. Within this account we further investigate the ramifications of the isovalency of four radicals with the same X(2)Σ(+) electronic structure - cyano (CN), boron monoxide (BO), silicon nitride (SiN), and ethynyl (C2H), and their reactions with simple prototype hydrocarbons acetylene (C2H2) and ethylene (C2H4). The fact that these four reactants own the same X(2)Σ(+) electronic ground state should dictate the outcome of their reactions with prototypical hydrocarbons holding a carbon-carbon triple and double bond. However, we find that other factors come into play, namely, atomic radii, bonding orbital overlaps, and preferential location of the radical site. These doublet radical reactions with simple hydrocarbons play significant roles in extreme environments such as the interstellar medium and planetary atmospheres (CN, SiN and C2H), and combustion flames (C2H, BO).