The relationship between chemical structure and spin state in a transition metal complex has an important bearing on mechanistic bioinorganic chemistry, catalysis by base metals, and the design of spin crossover materials. The latter provide an ideal testbed for this question, since small changes in spin state energetics can be easily detected from shifts in the spin crossover equilibrium temperature. Published structure-function relationships relating ligand design and spin state from the spin crossover literature give varied results. A sterically crowded ligand sphere favors the expanded metal–ligand bonds associated with the high-spin state. However, steric clashes at the molecular periphery can stabilize either the high-spin or the low-spin state in a predictable way, depending on their effect on ligand conformation. In the absence of steric influences, the picture is less clear since electron-withdrawing ligand substituents are reported to favor the low-spin or the high-spin state in different series of compounds. A recent study has shed light on this conundrum, showing that the electronic influence of a substituent on a coordinated metal ion depends on its position on the ligand framework. Finally, hydrogen bonding to complexes containing peripheral N‒H groups consistently stabilizes the low-spin state, where this has been quantified.
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