Reaction mechanisms, or the way in which one type of molecule is transformed into another, are most often described by chemists in pictorial form. These two-dimensional representations of the breaking and making of chemical bonds flow easily from the pen, but as a result they are all too often taken for granted.
In real life, of course, things are much more complex. Working with three-dimensional molecules, changes to solvent or catalyst and other such factors may dramatically alter the course of a reaction, and these subtleties are not readily appreciated by most students.
Nevertheless, mechanisms are still, more often than not, described as matters of fact - with scant regard to the effort expended to get experimental data to prove a mechanism.
The authors of this book try to redress this deficiency by bringing together a series of organic reactions whose mechanistic details have been probed using a variety of techniques and approaches.
The problems are grouped, with the first set used to revise the fundamentals of techniques such as isotope labelling and crossover experiments. Sets two and three make use of these techniques and a variety of data to consider problems of increasing difficulty.
These case studies are presented in a uniform way with a summary of the reaction, then follow the experimental results and an in-depth discussion of the data before conclusions are drawn.
Additional solved problems and references related to the main subject are also included.
Although it is aimed at advanced undergraduates, the book covers a very wide range of chemistry including photochemical, pericyclic and transition metal-catalysed reactions, making the whole book probably more suited to postgraduates.
However, as at least some of the cases will feature topics in most undergraduate programmes, these problems will also offer lecturers a useful set of worked problems with which to illustrate their courses.
Andrew Boa is lecturer in organic chemistry, Hull University.
Organic Reaction Mechanisms: 40 Solved Cases. First edition
Author - Mar Gomez Gallego and Miguel A. Sierra
Publisher - Springer
Pages - 290
Price - £38.50
ISBN - 3 540 00352 5