Complex Ions

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor), Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jen Moreau, vcdanht


A complex compound contains a central metal ion that is surrounded by ligands. Ligands are ions or molecules that donate a pair of electrons to the metals ion (co-ordinate bonding) and are therefore a Lewis base. The diagram below shows an example of a complex ion.

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  1. 1
    Hexaamminecobalt ion
    The example above is hexaamminecobalt ion. It consists of a cobalt (II) ion that has 6 ammonia ligands bonded to it. This means it has a co-ordination number of 6. However, the co-ordination number is not always just the number of ligands, in fact this is only the case with unidentate ligands, meaning each ligand forms a single bond to the metal ion (H2O, NH3 and Cl-).
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  2. 2
    Ligands can also be bidentate where they have two lone pairs to donate to the central atom. An example of a bidentate ligand is the ethanedioate ion, this has two separate oxygen atoms with a free lone pair, so the species donates to bonds.
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  3. 3
    A multidentate ligand forms many coordinate bonds. An example is EDTA4- which uses all of its 6 donor sites to bind to the metal ion. Also, haem, part of the protein haemoglobin (also hemoglobin), is an iron complex with a multidentate ligand.
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Shapes of Complex Ions

Depending on the type of ligand, and the coordination number, the shape of the complex varies.

  1. 1
    The octahedral shape is the most common. It occurs when there are 6 ligands.
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  2. 2
    The next most common is tetrahedral. It occurs in complexes with Cl- ligands because only 4 of them can fit around the metal ion, so this is the arrangement they take.
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  3. 3
    Silver (I) ions will form linear complexes. This is where one ligand is on either side of the silver ion with an 180° angle between them.
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Coloured Ions

A property of transition metals is that they form coloured compounds, and this is also true of transition metal complexes. These colours are determined by:

  • Oxidation state.
  • Co-ordination number.
  • Ligands.

Therefore, when we alter these things, the results are altered as well, and the color changes based on these changes. See the example below.

Color in solutions arises when a species absorbs visible light, meaning we see a combination of the remaining colours. The electron is excited from its normal state, to a higher energy state.. This change in energy level is called �"E.

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  • By using light, it is possible to determine the concentration of ion by looking at the intensity of the color. To do this, we use a spectrophotometer. It works by passing visible and ultraviolet light of varying frequencies through the sample. *The emergent light is detected.
  • The amount of light absorbed is proportional to the concentration of the ion.
  • Therefore, by knowing how much light is absorbed, the concentration of the absorbing species can be determined. In many compounds, however, there is not much of a difference in the colours of varyingly concentrated compounds, so it is necessary to add another ligand in a substitution reaction. A substance used for this is bipyridyl (bipy), which is much more sensitive to changes in concentration.

Applications of Complex Ions

As you may know from biology, iron exists in the blood. The protein haemoglobin has an iron atom that is coordinately bonded to four nitrogen atoms that are part of larger molecules. Oxygen coordinates with the Fe2+ ion and can be transported. Carbon monoxide forms a more stable complex than oxygen. This means oxygen uptake is inhibited and carbon monoxide poisoning can result.

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A platinum complex ion is used in the anti-cancer drug Cisplatin: it consists of two ammonia and two chloride ligands on a platinum.

Different silver complexes also have practical applications.

[Ag(NH3)2]+ Is used in Tollens' reagent, which tests for aldehyde or ketones.
[Ag(S2O3)2]3- Is formed in photography when silver bromide that hasn't been exposed to light is dissolved in a sodium thiosulphate solution.
[Ag(CN)2]- A complex formed when Ag salts are dissolved in potassium cyanide. This solution is used as the electrolyte in silver plating.

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Article Info

Categories : Inorganic

Recent edits by: Jen Moreau, Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jamie (ScienceAid Editor)

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