Organic Chemistry in "Real Life": 6-Membered Rings
We are borrowing from a first semester "Real Life" page here. By now we all know that the 6-membered ring is a particularly stable
ring structure, both in cycloalkanes (cyclohexane) and now, as an aromatic system. 6-Membered benzene rings occur frequently in organic structures.
>Multiple benzene rings fused together are called polyaromatic hydrocarbons
(PAH's). You may have heard of PAH's in the context of polluting components
of soots and incomplete combustion, and indeed many are known carcinogens,
including benzene itself. This is unfortunate since I used to have to purify
5 liters of benzene each week by shaking it with conc. sulfuric acid in
a separatory funnel. Releasing the pressure in the separatory funnel released a
fine mist of conc. sulfuric and benzene vapor into the atmosphere that made
tiny holes in all my clothes and when inhaled, probably accumulated in my liver!
6-Membered rings are an important part of the fundamantal structures
of many many important biological molecules. Here are just a couple of examples.
How about this example?
And why is tetracycline so called?
Before organic chemists came
up with synthetic dyes, indigo was once as important a cash crop in the
US as cotton
OK, you get the idea. Let's end this with a look at the four bases that
form the ATCG genetic code in DNA.
6-Membered rings are not only important in organic systems. Look at this
wonderful STM image of an array of individual gallium atoms on a graphite
It is interesting to see how an atomic 6-membered ring motif can repeat
on the macro scale. An extreme example is found in Fingal's cave, on the
tiny island of Staffa off the northwest coast of Scotland (Fingal's cave
inspired Mendelssohn's Hebridean overture). You can only get there by boat
(from personal experience it can be a very rough ride!) from the island
of Iona (where Saint Patrick landed to bring christianity to the British
Isles, and the burial place of Macbeth, am I getting off track here?). The
cave contains massive volcanic basalt hexagonal columns. I don't know the
composition of basalt, but clearly the hexagonal packing of the ions is
reflected in the macro structure of these giant crystals, each a couple
of feet in diameter and many meters tall.
6-Membered rings abound in nature, some obvious examples include this
honeycomb and wasp nest, and these amazing pictures of snowflakes!
And no really chemistry, but hexagons
are commonly used in tiling and mosaics, as in these Islamic designs (left)
and this design found at Pompeii (right).
A hexagram is a 6-pointed figure composed of two equilateral triangles
superimposed on each other. Can you see the Star of David hexagram in this
Silver bowl from Damascus?