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Chemistry LibreTexts

2.1 Transition metal complexes

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  • Metallic elements are found in a variety of forms in nature and industry. Most people think of metallic materials or minerals when they think of metals.

    Let's consider copper, for example. Copper is found naturally in a variety of copper ores, defined as minerals (rocks) made of copper ions bound to a variety of other metals and non-metals. The copper can be extracted from these ores to produce pure metallic copper (like the copper used to build the Statue of Liberty, electrical wires, and to plate modern pennies). Copper is also is found in the foods you eat, and in every cell in your body. But, in living organisms, copper is most often found as individual ions bound in coordination complexes with proteins or other biomolecules rather than as bulk minerals or metallic materials.

    Most metal elements that are ubiquitously essential in biology are found as individual metal ions bound to water or biomolecules; exceptions include the calcium mineralization used in structures like shells and bone, and the magnetic iron deposits (e.g. magnosomes) that allow some organisms to sense the Earth's magnetic field (magnoreception). 

    The focus of this course will be on individual metal ions that form coordination structures with biomolecules and that have a variety of essential functions. Here, you will see coordination complexes, their structures, and nomenclature.

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