17.14: Aromatic Hydrocarbon Cations: Structural Overview
Cycloheptatriene is a neutral monocyclic unsaturated hydrocarbon that consists of an odd number of carbon atoms and an intervening sp3 carbon in the ring. The three double bonds in the ring correspond to 6 π electrons, which is a Huckel number, and therefore satisfies the criteria of 4n + 2 π electrons. However, the intervening sp3 carbon disrupts the continuous overlap of p orbitals. As a result, cycloheptatriene is not aromatic.
Removing one hydrogen from the intervening CH2 group with both or one or no electrons generates cycloheptatrienyl cation, radical, and anion, respectively, thereby converting the sp3 carbon of cycloheptatriene to sp2. As a result, the generated empty 2p orbital in cycloheptatrienyl cation and the p orbitals of other carbons in the ring forms a continuous loop of overlapping p orbitals. Therefore, compared to radical and anion, the cycloheptatrienyl cation with 6 π electrons and a continuous loop of overlapping p orbitals fulfills all Huckel’s criteria and is aromatic.