Any coordination complex will have a central metal atom which is usually a transition metal. This metal is surrounded by ligands. Metal complexes are formed between a transition metal and a ligand like water, ammonia, nitriles and so on. In this complex, the electron or a lone pair from the ligand is donated to the d orbital of the transition metal to form a coordinate bond. This bonding can be explained in terms of the Lewis acid-base interaction. The ligands are considered to be Lewis bases as these molecules can donate electrons to the transition metals. Also, transition metals are Lewis acids as these are positively charged and are capable of accepting electrons from the ligands. As the charge on the transition metal atoms increases, the ability to form strong coordinate bond increases.
The two main reasons for the stability of a metal complex is mentioned below.
One of the factors that decides the stability of transition metal complex is the type of interactions between the ligand and the metal ion. Hard-soft interactions is an important reason for the increase in the stability of the complexes. According to the HSAB principle, the hard acid only binds with a hard base and the soft acid binds with a soft base. This theory gives the idea of like-like interactions.
Hard-Hard Interactions: Hard acids are small cations with large charge density and hard bases are anions with non-polarizable atoms which can donate its electrons to an electropositive metal. The interaction between a hard acid and a hard base is a type of electrostatic attraction. CFSE or crystal field stabilization energy is the key reason for the increased stability of crystal complexes. The electrostatic attractions in the hard-hard interactions between the ligand and complex increases the CFSE and thus increases the stability of the complexes.
Soft-Soft Interactions: Soft acids on the other hand are large cations with small charge density and soft bases are anions with polarizable atoms which can donate its electrons to an electronegative metal. When a soft acids and soft bases are bonded, the type of bonding between the ligand and the complex ion is covalent. The metal carbonyls have a soft-soft interaction and are highly stable. Thus, soft-soft interactions are another reason for the stability of metal complexes.
The Chelate Effect:
Chelate effect is another reason for the stability of metal complexes. Ligands can be of different types according to the bonding. A polydentate ligand which can link to a metal ion with more than two atoms, can introduce chelation to the metal ion. This increases the strength of bond between the metal ion and the ligand. Chelate ligands surround the metal ions in such a way that the ions are bonded to the ligand circling the metal ion. This increases the bond strength and thus the stability. This property of polydentate ligands increases the thermodynamic stability of the complex.
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