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The parent cyclobutadiene (R = H) readily dimerizes but the R = tert-butyl derivative is robust.
Steric effects are nonbonding interactions that influence the shape (conformation) and reactivity of ions and molecules. Steric effects complement electronic effects, which dictate the shape and reactivity of molecules. Steric repulsive forces between overlapping electron clouds result in structured groupings of molecules stabilized by the way that opposites attract and like charges repel.
Regioselective dimethoxytritylation of the primary 5'-hydroxyl group of thymidine in the presence of a free secondary 3'-hydroxy group as a result of steric hindrance due to the dimethoxytrityl group and the ribose ring (Py = pyridine).
Steric hindrance is a consequence of steric effects. Steric hindrance is the slowing of chemical reactions due to steric bulk. It is usually manifested in intermolecular reactions, whereas discussion of steric effects often focus on intramolecular interactions. Steric hindrance is often exploited to control selectivity, such as slowing unwanted side-reactions.
Steric hindrance between adjacent groups can also affect torsional bond angles. Steric hindrance is responsible for the observed shape of rotaxanes and the low rates of racemization of 2,2'-disubstituted biphenyl and binaphthyl derivatives.
Measures of steric properties
Because steric effects have profound impact on properties, the steric properties of substituents have been assessed by numerous methods.
Relative rates of chemical reactions provide useful insights into the effects of the steric bulk of substituents. Under standard conditions methyl bromide solvolyzes 107 faster than does neopentyl bromide. The difference reflects the inhibition of attack on the compound with the sterically bulky (CH3)3C group.
A values provide another measure of the bulk of substituents. A values are derived from equilibrium measurements of monosubstituted cyclohexanes. The extent that a substituent favors the equatorial position gives a measure of its bulk.
The A-value for a methyl group is 1.74 as derived from the chemical equilibrium above. It costs 1.74 kcal/mol for the methyl group to adopt to the axial position compared to the equatorial position.
Ceiling temperature () is a measure of the steric properties of the monomers that comprise a polymer. is the temperature where the rate of polymerization and depolymerization are equal. Sterically hindered monomers give polymers with low 's, which are usually not useful.
In biochemistry, steric effects are often exploited in naturally occurring molecules such as enzymes, where the catalytic site may be buried within a large protein structure. In pharmacology, steric effects determine how and at what rate a drug will interact with its target bio-molecules.
An isolable selenenic acid owing to steric protection.
The steric effect of tri-(tert-butyl)amine makes electrophilic reactions, like forming the tetraalkylammonium cation, difficult. It is difficult for electrophiles to get close enough to allow attack by the lone pair of the nitrogen (nitrogen is shown in blue)
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