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Molecular Clusters of the Main Group Elements. Edited by Matthias Driess and Heinrich Nth

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Molecular Clusters of the Main
Group Elements
Edited by Matthias
Driess and Heinrich
Nth. Wiley-VCH,
Weinheim 2004.
444 pp., hardcover
E 139.00.—ISBN
We must surely all be familiar with the
fascinating pictures that have often decorated the front cover and contents
pages of Angewandte Chemie: clusters—chemical works of art whose
esthetic appeal lies in the perfection of
the symmetrical shapes formed by
nature, or in the bewildering complexity
that seems to defy the laws of energy
and entropy. To understand the trick of
navigating between the Scylla of
“simple molecules” and the Charybdis
of “crystalline solids”, in such a way as
to confer stability on large assemblies
of atoms, is one of the most interesting
challenges of fundamental chemical
research. Anyone who doubts this
should read the book Molecular Clusters
of the Main Group Elements, edited by
Matthias Driess and Heinrich N(th, as
also should everyone who has already
fallen under the spell of the attraction
of clusters.
The book is a summary of a successful “priority program” on clusters that
was supported by the German Research
Foundation. It contains 14 articles by a
total of 25 authors, who are all well-recognized experts in this field. It reflects
the high level of activity in this area of
research, covering developments up to
the beginning of 2003.
The more specialized articles are
preceded by an introductory chapter,
which begins with an account of the historical development then describes the
particular characteristics of the cluster
compounds of the Main Group elements. It is shown that the discovery of
these “chemical curiosities”, beginning
with the boranes and culminating in
the metalloid giant clusters Al77 and
Ga84, repeatedly acted as a stimulus to
the further development of concepts in
bonding theory. This chapter, having
begun in the style of a textbook of inorganic chemistry, quickly changes into a
good, clearly understandable, description of the main fundamental developments during the last three decades.
The discussion covers aspects such as
the causes and significance of threedimensional aromaticity and the related
NICS (nucleus-independent chemical
shift) effect observed in NMR spectra.
Several of the chapters that follow
are concerned with details of the
modern chemistry of Main Group elements. There is a clear emphasis on cluster compounds based on boron, which
occupy about 40 % of the text. Discussions of well-known early work are
related to recent developments, including applications in the medical field.
The cluster chemistry of the heavy elements of Groups 13 to 16 is described,
with about equal amounts of space
devoted to each of these. There are
also chapters on new compounds of the
alkali and alkaline-earth metals. All
the contributions are well-worth reading
and have plenty of illustrations. The
comprehensive lists of references offer
the reader quick and easy access to the
original publications. It is pleasing to
note that all the authors have taken
care to give a view beyond the boundaries of their own research projects, thus
presenting really comprehensive overviews of current developments in their
areas of research. The organization of
the large amount of information from
the literature is generally good, with
only a few instances where one would
have preferred a tighter and more systematic grouping.
Not surprisingly, in reading through
the whole book one finds a considerable
amount of repetition. However, this has
4 2004 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
the advantage that one can often read
and understand an article on a specific
topic independently of the preceding
ones. In some cases the order in which
the articles are presented is rather unfortunate, as homonuclear and heteronuclear clusters of a given element, the
chemistry of which may be closely
related, are not treated in a smooth
sequence. However, the occasional
cross-references remedy that to some
extent by showing connections between
related discussions. The keyword index
in the appendix is also very useful.
The ground covered by the book
does not correspond completely with
the title. The absence of any discussion
of carbon or carbon-containing clusters
(fullerenes etc.) is not a serious matter,
as there are already many other books
on that area. On the other hand, it is surprising that mercury—despite all its
chemical similarities—is “adopted” as
a Main Group element. Furthermore,
the molecular character of the suboxides
and subnitrides of the alkali and alkaline-earth metals, which fall between a
metal and a salt in their properties, is
not evident. It is clearly difficult to
define what a cluster is, not only for
the authors. The definitions are not
very clear even for the Main Group elements, as one is reminded while reading
the book. Thus, if heterocubane-like
species such as (R Al)4O4 and Li4(N=CR2)4 are classified as cluster compounds, so also must molecules such as
P4O10 and [Si6O18]6 .
To summarize, Molecular Clusters of
the Main Group Elements is certainly
not a popular science book, nor is it a
textbook; it is a very good, up-to-date
collection of articles for the specialist.
Michael Ruck
Institut f*r Anorganische Chemie
Technische Universit/t Dresden
DOI: 10.1002/anie.200385189
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2004, 43, 4688 – 4689
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elements, clusters, molecular, heinrich, group, driess, edited, matthias, main, nth
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