# 16.2: The Structure and Properties of Benzene and its Derivatives

## Benzene

Benzene, C6H6, is the simplest member of a large family of hydrocarbons, called aromatic hydrocarbons. These compounds contain ring structures and exhibit bonding that must be described using the resonance hybrid concept of valence bond theory or the delocalization concept of molecular orbital theory. (To review these concepts, refer to the earlier chapters on chemical bonding). The resonance structures for benzene, C6H6, are:

Valence bond theory describes the benzene molecule and other planar aromatic hydrocarbon molecules as hexagonal rings of sp2-hybridized carbon atoms with the unhybridized p orbital of each carbon atom perpendicular to the plane of the ring. Three valence electrons in the sp2 hybrid orbitals of each carbon atom and the valence electron of each hydrogen atom form the framework of σ bonds in the benzene molecule. The fourth valence electron of each carbon atom is shared with an adjacent carbon atom in their unhybridized p orbitals to yield the π bonds. Benzene does not, however, exhibit the characteristics typical of an alkene. Each of the six bonds between its carbon atoms is equivalent and exhibits properties that are intermediate between those of a C–C single bond and a $$\mathrm{C=C}$$ double bond. To represent this unique bonding, structural formulas for benzene and its derivatives are typically drawn with single bonds between the carbon atoms and a circle within the ring as shown in Figure $$\PageIndex{10}$$.

Figure : This diagram shows the unique bonding structure of benzene.

There are many derivatives of benzene. The hydrogen atoms can be replaced by many different substituents. Aromatic compounds more readily undergo substitution reactions than addition reactions; replacement of one of the hydrogen atoms with another substituent will leave the delocalized double bonds intact. The following are typical examples of substituted benzene derivatives:

Toluene and xylene are important solvents and raw materials in the chemical industry. Styrene is used to produce the polymer polystyrene.

Example: Structure of Aromatic Hydrocarbons

One possible isomer created by a substitution reaction that replaces a hydrogen atom attached to the aromatic ring of toluene with a chlorine atom is shown here. Draw two other possible isomers in which the chlorine atom replaces a different hydrogen atom attached to the aromatic ring:

Solution

Since the six-carbon ring with alternating double bonds is necessary for the molecule to be classified as aromatic, appropriate isomers can be produced only by changing the positions of the chloro-substituent relative to the methyl-substituent:

Exercise

1.  Draw three isomers of a six-membered aromatic ring compound substituted with two bromine atoms.

## Larger Arenes

Most arenes that contain a single six-membered ring are volatile liquids, such as benzene and the xylenes, although some arenes with substituents on the ring are solids at room temperature. In the gas phase, the dipole moment of benzene is zero, but the presence of electronegative or electropositive substituents can result in a net dipole moment that increases intermolecular attractive forces and raises the melting and boiling points. For example, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, a compound used as an alternative to naphthalene in the production of mothballs, has a melting point of 52.7°C, which is considerably greater than the melting point of benzene (5.5°C).

Certain aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzene and benz[a]pyrene, are potent liver toxins and carcinogens. In 1775, a British physician, Percival Pott, described the high incidence of cancer of the scrotum among small boys used as chimney sweeps and attributed it to their exposure to soot. His conclusions were correct: benz[a]pyrene, a component of chimney soot, charcoal-grilled meats, and cigarette smoke, was the first chemical carcinogen to be identified.

Although arenes are usually drawn with three C=C bonds, benzene is about 150 kJ/mol more stable than would be expected if it contained three double bonds. This increased stability is due to the delocalization of the π electron density over all the atoms of the ring. Compared with alkenes, arenes are poor nucleophiles. Consequently, they do not undergo addition reactions like alkenes; instead, they undergo a variety of electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions that involve the replacement of –H on the arene by a group –E, such as –NO2, –SO3H, a halogen, or an alkyl group, in a two-step process. The first step involves addition of the electrophile (E) to the π system of benzene, forming a carbocation. In the second step, a proton is lost from the adjacent carbon on the ring:

The carbocation formed in the first step is stabilized by resonance.

Arenes undergo substitution reactions rather than elimination because of increased stability arising from delocalization of their π electron density.

Many substituted arenes have potent biological activity. Some examples include common drugs and antibiotics such as aspirin and ibuprofen, illicit drugs such as amphetamines and peyote, the amino acid phenylalanine, and hormones such as adrenaline as shown below.

Figure: Biologically Active Substituted Arenes; Chiral centers are indicated with an asterisk.

Aspirin (antifever activity), ibuprofen (antifever and anti-inflammatory activity), and amphetamine (stimulant) have pharmacological effects. Phenylalanine is an amino acid. Adrenaline is a hormone that elicits the “fight or flight” response to stress.

## Physical Properties

The physical properties of aromatic compounds are similar to other hydrocarbons.  As hydrocarbons, the dominant IMF is the London Dispersion Force.  This relatively weak IMF results in more volatile compounds which led to the term "aromatic".  Chemists can frequently recognize the presence of an aromatic compound by simply smelling its aroma.