CHEM 320 : Design and Reactivity of Inorganic Compounds


2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

A selection of the most recent developments in contemporary inorganic chemistry will be covered. Topics include selected physical properties of coordination compounds such as multinuclear NMR spectroscopy, UV-vis spectroscopy, magnetism, redox chemistry and photochemistry, the organometallic chemistry and catalytic reactions of transition elements, bioinorganic and medicinal inorganic chemistry, the kinetics and thermodynamics of ligand substitution reactions, main-group organometallic chemistry and main-group polymers. The laboratories provide an important complementary experience in the synthesis and measurement of physical properties for selected inorganic compounds.

Course Overview

This course builds on the inorganic and physical chemistry concepts introduced in CHEM251 and 253. Areas of special focus include selected important physical techniques that are key to the understanding and characterization of inorganic compounds, kinetics, and thermodynamics as applied in inorganic chemistry, the organometallic chemistry of the transition elements, and bio-inorganic chemistry. The course is designed to enable students to gain a wide appreciation of different aspects of modern inorganic chemistry and to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in this key area. This course is important because it equips students with crucial core knowledge and skills that are essential for a comprehensive understanding of the modern discipline of chemistry. The course also provides students with key foundational knowledge and skills to progress smoothly to higher, research-based degrees in chemistry (including BSc(Hons), MSc, and Ph.D.), or alternatively, to take advantage of employment opportunities in any areas where a broad knowledge of chemistry and/or proficiency in critical thinking is required.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from CHEM 220, 251, 253

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand and interpret multinuclear NMR spectra and use this as a tool for determination of inorganic molecular structure. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  2. Understand the principles of crystal field theory and apply this to interpret and explain the electronic spectra and magnetic properties of transition metal complexes. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Understand the thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of inorganic reactions and to be able to use that knowledge to explain reaction mechanisms relating to ligand substitution reactions. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  4. Recognise substitution reaction mechanisms and determine the factors which influence the different types (Capability 1 and 2)
  5. Use and apply chemistry software to communicate concepts in chemistry (Capability 1, 4 and 5)
  6. Describe and understand the bonding models used to explain the interactions between transition metals and unsaturated organic molecules, and to use that knowledge to predict the structural and spectroscopic properties of these compounds. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  7. Recognise and understand oxidative addition, reductive elimination, migratory insertion/de-insertion, beta-hydrogen elimination and ligand substitution as key organometallic reaction types, and to be able to use these to explain the reactions described in the lectures. (Capability 1 and 2)
  8. Apply organometallic chemistry concepts and principles to understand and explain the industrially important transition metal catalysed reactions described in lectures. (Capability 2 and 3)
  9. Describe and understand the central role coordination compounds play in biological systems, and the application of metal compounds in the treatment of diseases, for imaging and diagnosis. (Capability 1 and 2)
  10. Obtain the skills necessary to carry out practical laboratory work that reinforces the concepts, principles and knowledge gained in the course, and to communicate the outcomes effectively. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Test 10% Individual Test
Test 10% Individual Test
Laboratories 30% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Final Exam

A student must pass both the theory component and the practical component to gain an overall pass. The theory component is composed of quizzes, term tests, and final exams. The practical component is composed of laboratory experiments.


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of chemical sciences aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection) and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

Tuākana Chemistry runs a range of activities for students enrolled in this class. This includes weekly workshops, social activities, and opportunities to engage with senior students and researchers within the School of Chemical Sciences. Tuākana-eligible students will be added automatically to the Tuākana Chemistry program when they enroll in this course. For more information, please see the Tuākana program website or email

Key Topics

A. Physical methods in inorganic chemistry.
1. Multinuclear NMR in Inorganic Chemistry
2. Electronic spectra of coordination compounds (crystal field theory and ligand field theory, Tanabe Sugano analysis)
3. Photochemical reactions (excited state reactivity) of transition metal complexes
4. Magnetic properties of transition metal complexes
B. Transition Metal Organometallic Chemistry  
1. Introduction.   
Classification of organometallic compounds, bond polarity, bond type (covalent, multicentre, multiple bonds, π-complexes),  
The 18-electron rule (including description, number of electrons formally donated by ligands, exceptions, and examples).
 2. Transition metal carbonyls.
Preparation and physical properties:  Structures, simple carbonyls of the first transition series, polynuclear carbonyls, bonding, experimental evidence for bonding models, isoelectronic and isostructural species, IR frequencies, and symmetry.
Reactions of binary metal carbonyls: Substitution, electron transfer catalysis, nucleophilic attack, formation of anions, reactions of carbonylate anions.
Other ligands related to CO:  TM complexes of isocyanide, cyanide, thiocarbonyl, carbene (including preparation, structure, and bonding), carbyne, nitrosyl, and PR3 ligands.
3. σ-Donor/π-Acceptor Ligands.
Simple alkene complexes: Syntheses, bonding, structural studies, hindered rotation and NMR studies, complex polyalkenes, reactions of coordinated alkenes, heteroalkene, and heteroallene complexes.
Alkyne complexes:  Mononuclear complexes, dinuclear complexes, special alkyne complexes (including benzyne), alkyne complexes in organic synthesis (including metal-stabilized propargyl cations, oligomerization of alkynes, substituted benzene synthesis, pyridine synthesis, synthesis of homocyclic systems, the Pauson-Khand reaction), heteroalkyne complexes.
Allyl and –enyl Complexes:  π-Allyl complexes (including structure and bonding and uses in organic synthesis, cyclic polyene and polyenyl complexes, half-sandwich complexes, multi-decker sandwiches, ferrocene (including the history of discovery, structure, bonding, reactions and special features of ferrocene), cobaltocene, nickelocene, coordination modes of the cyclopentadienyl anion (including NMR studies), other carbocyclic rings (including 4- and 6-membered rings).
4.  Transition Metal-Carbon σ-Bonds.
Preparation of TM σ-alkyls and aryls:  Metal anion with RX, metal halide with carbanion, from transition metal hydrides, oxidative addition, and other methods.
Kinetic and thermodynamic stabilities of TM alkyls:  General considerations, low energy decomposition routes available to TM alkyls (including β-hydrogen elimination, α-hydrogen abstraction, reductive elimination, ligand hydrogen abstraction), perfluoroalkyl complexes.
5.  Important Reaction Classes in TM Organometallic Chemistry.
Coordinatively saturated and unsaturated complexes, insertion reactions (including details of mechanisms), oxidative addition, and reductive elimination.
 6.  Organometallic Catalysis.
Introduction:  Mode of action of TM complexes in catalysis, heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysts.
The Wacker Process:  Overall reaction, industrial importance and typical industrial parameters, catalytic cycle discussed in terms of fundamental organometallic steps.
Hydrogenation of Alkenes:  Scope, conditions, a catalytic cycle involving Wilkinson’s catalyst, asymmetric hydrogenation, L-Dopa synthesis.
Monsanto acetic acid process:  Industrial importance, catalytic cycle, fundamental steps in the catalytic cycle.
Hydroformylation:  Industrial significance, variety of products formed, different catalysts, catalytic cycles involving HCo(CO)4 and RhH(CO)(PPh3)3, individual steps involved in these processes, and comparisons between them.
Oligomerization and polymerization:  Cyclisations of acetylene and butadiene, polymerization on alkenes, different activities of polymers from propene, mechanisms.
C. Bioinorganic Chemistry  
Bioinorganic Chemistry is an interdisciplinary research area that deals with all aspects of metals and their biological functions. The lectures will provide insight into the central role of coordination compounds in nature, and point out the potential for application as drugs. Selected examples will lead the students to an understanding of fascinating processes occurring in bioinorganic chemistry.
• General aspects of bioinorganic chemistry  
• Biological ligand systems
• Role of metals in nature  
• Metals and proteins (Fe, Zn, Mn, etc.)  
• Metals and toxicity
• Metal compounds in the treatment of different diseases imaging and diagnosis
D. Kinetics and Thermodynamics in Inorganic Chemistry 
Investigating the kinetics of a reaction and understanding the thermodynamics of the transformation help to build an accurate picture of the corresponding energetic landscape and provide insight into the reaction mechanism(s) involved. Lectures will cover:
  • Terms and equations: equilibrium constant, ground state, transition state, intermediate, rate constant, activation energy, reaction order, rate law, Arrhenius Equation, Eyring Equation, entropy, enthalpy, Gibbs free energy, inert/labile, nucleophilicity/electrophilicity, basicity/acidity
  • Ligand substitution reactions: trans effect/trans influence, Associative/Dissociative/Interchange mechanisms

Special Requirements

Attendance at the laboratories is a compulsory part of this course. Students must be wearing safety glasses, covered footwear, and a lab coat before entering the laboratory and must keep these on until after exiting the laboratory. Jandals or other open shoes are not satisfactory footwear. Students who wear prescription spectacles are required to wear safety glasses over their spectacles. 

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15-point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15-point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 36 hours of lectures, 12 one-hour tutorials, 18 hours of laboratory work (6 x 3 hours), 42 hours of reading and thinking about the content, and 42 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience or Online

This course is offered in two delivery modes:

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs/tutorials to complete/receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials will be available as recordings.
The course will include live online events including tutorials.
Attendance on campus is required for the tests/exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable delivery.


Attendance is expected at scheduled online activities including tutorials to complete/receive credit for components of the course.
The course will include live online events including tutorials/lectures and these will be recorded.
Where possible, study material will be released progressively throughout the course.
This course runs to the University semester timetable and all the associated completion dates and deadlines will apply.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

 The textbooks are CE Housecroft and AG Sharpe, Inorganic Chemistry, 4rd ed, Pearson, and C. Elschenbroich, Organometallics, 2nd or 3rd ed, Wiley-VCH.  Recommend reading: DF Shriver and PW Atkins, Inorganic Chemistry, 4th or 5th ed, Oxford University Press.
Supplemental readings and sections from the textbooks are given for each lecture by the individual lecturers. 

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

The main course feedback was the difficulty of the laboratory experiments and reports. This is due to the lack of laboratory experience as a result of online learning during the past few years.  Alongside this, the students also struggled to feel part of a learning community with the course being offered online.  The teaching team will encourage more in person attendance in 2023 to better support student learning.  

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2022 09:28 a.m.