Beyond π-π Stacking: Understanding Inversion Symmetry Breaking in Crystalline Racemates

Yiran Wang, Matthew L. Nisbet, Kendall R. Kamp, Emily Hiralal, Romain Gautier, P. Shiv Halasyamani, Kenneth R. Poeppelmeier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The design of noncentrosymmetric (NCS) solid state materials, specifically how to break inversion symmetry between enantiomers, has intrigued chemists, physicists, and materials scientists for many years. Because the chemical complexity of molecular racemic building units is so varied, targeting these materials is poorly understood. Previously, three isostructural racemic compounds with a formula of [Cu(H2O)(bpy)2]2[MF6]2·2H2O (bpy = 2,2’=bipyridine; M = Ti, Zr, Hf) were shown to crystallize in the NCS space group Pna21, of polar, achiral crystal class mm2. In this work, we synthesized five new racemic compounds with the formula [Cu(H2O)(dmbpy)2]2[MF6]2·xH2O (dmbpy = 4,4′/5,5′-dimethyl-2,2′-bipyridine; M = Ti, Zr, Hf). Single crystal X-ray diffraction reveals that the five newly synthesized compounds feature equimolar combinations of Δ- and Λ-Cu(dmbpy)2(H2O)2+ complexes that are assembled into packing motifs similar to those found in the reported NCS structure but all crystallize in centrosymmetric (CS) space groups. Seven structural descriptors were created to analyze the intermolecular interactions on the assembly of Cu racemates in the CS and NCS structures. The structural analysis reveals that in the CS structures, the inversion center results from parallel heterochiral π-π stacking interactions between adjacent Cu racemates regardless of cation geometries, hydrogen bonding networks, or interlayer architectures, whereas in the NCS structure, nonparallel heterochiral π-π interactions between the adjacent Cu racemates preclude an inversion center. The parallel heterochiral π-π interactions in the CS structures can be rationalized by the restrained geometries of the methyl-substituted ligands. This work demonstrates that the introduction of nonparallel stacking can suppress the formation of an inversion center for an NCS racemate. A conceptual framework and practical approach linking the absence of inversion symmetry in racemates is presented for all NCS crystal classes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16879-16888
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number30
StatePublished - Aug 2 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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