What is an "Organometallic" Molecule?
An organometallic molecule is one that contains a metal-carbon bond. Organometallic chemistry is typically thought of as a subset of Inorganic Coordination chemistry, although it also plays an major role in Organic and Materials chemistries. Organometallics also play smaller but important roles in other branches of chemistry such as Biological and Analytical.
Chemists sometimes refer to particular molecules as organometallic even though these molecules lack the required metal-carbon bond. While this is formally incorrect, it is a convenient shorthand when the molecule has reaction chemistry that derives from or will lead to an organometallic molecule. Here is what the leading journal of the field, Organometallics, has to say about the matter (you can download the entire Scope and Editorial policy (17 Kb) from the American Chemical Society):
For the purposes of this journal, an "organometallic"
compound will be defined as one in which there is a
bonding interaction (ionic or covalent, localized or
delocalized) between one or more carbon atoms of an
organic group or molecule and a main group, transition,
lanthanide, or actinide metal atom (or atoms). Following
longstanding tradition, organic derivatives of the
metalloids (boron, silicon, germanium, arsenic, and
tellurium) will be included in this definition. Furthermore,
manuscripts dealing with metal-containing compounds
which do not contain metal-carbon bonds will
be considered as well if there is a close relationship
between the subject matter and the principles and
practice of organometallic chemistry. Such compounds
may include, inter alia, representatives from the following
classes: molecular metal hydrides; metal alkoxides,
thiolates, amides, and phosphides; metal complexes
containing organo-group 15 and 16 ligands; metal
What are some related terms?
Although most chemists refer to the field as Organometallic, some use other names either out of habit, to stress one part of it (the organic or the metallic), or to narrow the scope. Some examples include:
- Organotransition metal chemistry (organometallic chemistry of the transition metals, i.e. the d-block elements). This hypertext focuses almost exclusively on this area.
- Organoactinide chemistry (organometallic chemistry of the actinide group)
- Organolanthanide chemistry (organomeallic chemistry of the lanthanide group)
- Metallo-organic chemistry (this form usually stresses the applications of organometallic chemistry to organic synthesis)
- Main group organometallics (focuses on organometallic chemistry of the main group, i.e. Groups 13-17).
- That really cool branch of chemistry...
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