Geoffrey Wilkinson discoverer of ferrocene structure

Geoffrey Wilkinson – discoverer of ferrocene structure

Article on Geoffrey Wilkinson

Biography & contributions

Geoffrey Wilkinson, an English chemist and Nobel laureate born on July 14, 1921 – died on September 26, 1996. Geoffrey had done important works on organometallic compounds, establishing the structure of sandwich molecules and discovering a new class of compounds, with German chemist Ernst Otto Fischer and on homogeneous transition metal catalysis.

Geoffrey Wilkinson showed that the ferrocene molecule consists of an iron atom bonded to each of five carbon atoms in two rings of carbon and hydrogen. The iron atom is “sandwiched” between the two rings.

In 1966 geoffrey developed what is now known as Wilkinson's Catalyst, a rhodium metal complex with three large phosphine ligands linked to the metal center that acts as a chemical catalyst for the hydrogenation of alkenes.

Geoffrey won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1973 for his work with ferrocene, sharing the honour and honorarium with Ernst Otto Fischer.

Geoffrey Wilkinson determined the double-humped curve for calculating fission product yields from the slow fission of specific uranium as a function of mass number.

Wilkinson's Catalyst

Geoffrey developed Wilkinson's catalyst. Wilkinson's catalyst is the common name for chlorotris(triphenylphosphine)rhodium(I), a coordination compound. It is a square planar 16-electron complex. The oxidation state of Rhodium in it is +1. Wilkinson's catalyst catalyzes the hydrogenation of alkenes.

It was the first such catalyst to work at comparable rates to the best heterogeneous (i.e. solid) catalyst, working rapidly at 25°C and 1 atm pressure of hydrogen gas.

The mechanism of this reaction involves the initial dissociation of one or two triphenylphosphine ligands to give 14- or 12-electron complexes, respectively, followed by oxidative addition of H2 to the metal. In further steps π-complexation of alkene, intramolecular hydride transfer and reductive elimination results in extrusion of the alkane product.

Wilkinson’s catalyst, is used in benzene/ethanol solution in which it dissociates to some extent; a solvent molecule (Solv) fills the vacant site.

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