Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

Selection Rules for Electronic Spectra of Transition Metal Complexes

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    The Selection Rules governing transitions between electronic energy levels of transition metal complexes are:

    1. ΔS = 0 The Spin Rule
    2. Δl = +/- 1 The Orbital Rule (or Laporte)

    The first rule says that allowed transitions must involve the promotion of electrons without a change in their spin. The second rule says that if the molecule has a center of symmetry, transitions within a given set of p or d orbitals (i.e. those which only involve a redistribution of electrons within a given subshell) are forbidden.

    Relaxation of these rules can occur through:

    • Spin-Orbit coupling: this gives rise to weak spin forbidden bands
    • Vibronic coupling: an octahedral complex may have allowed vibrations where the molecule is asymmetric.
      Absorption of light at that moment is then possible.
    • Mixing: π-acceptor and π-donor ligands can mix with the d-orbitals so transitions are no longer purely d-d.

    Transition Types

    1. Charge transfer, either ligand to metal or metal to ligand. These are often extremely intense and are generally found in the UV but they may have a tail into the visible.
    2. d-d, these can occur in both the UV and visible region but since they are forbidden transitions have small intensities.
    Expected intensities of electronic transitions
    Transition type Example Typical values of ε /m2mol-1
    Spin forbidden,
    Laporte forbidden
    [Mn(H2O)6]2+ 0.1
    Spin allowed (octahedral complex),
    Laporte forbidden
    [Ti(H2O)6]3+ 1 - 10
    Spin allowed (tetrahedral complex),
    Laporte partially allowed
    by d-p mixing
    [CoCl4]2- 50 - 150
    Spin allowed,
    Laporte allowed
    e.g. charge transfer bands
    [TiCl6]2- or MnO4- 1,000 - 106

    Expected Values

    The expected values should be compared to the following rough guide.

    • For M2+ complexes, expect Δ = 7,500 - 12,500 cm-1 or λ = 800 - 1,350 nm.
    • For M3+ complexes, expect Δ= 14,000 - 25,000 cm-1 or λ = 400 - 720 nm.

    For a typical spin-allowed, but Laporte (orbitally) forbidden transition in an octahedral complex, expect ε < 10 m2mol-1. Extinction coefficients for tetrahedral complexes are expected to be around 50-100 times larger than for octrahedral complexes. B for first-row transition metal free ions is around 1,000 cm-1. Depending on the position of the ligand in the nephelauxetic series, this can be reduced to as low as 60% in the complex.

    This page titled Selection Rules for Electronic Spectra of Transition Metal Complexes is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert J. Lancashire.

    • Was this article helpful?