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Beryllium & Magnesium: Organometallic Chemistry

  1. Dovas A. Saulys1,
  2. E. Alexander Hill2

Published Online: 15 MAR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470862106.ia017

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

How to Cite

Saulys, D. A. and Hill, E. A. 2006. Beryllium & Magnesium: Organometallic Chemistry . Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

  2. 2

    University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2006


Victor Grignard found in 1900 that solutions of organomagnesium halides form easily in the reaction of an organic halide with magnesium metal in diethyl ether. These Grignard reagents undergo useful reactions with many kinds of substrates. This discovery ushered in a new era in organometallic chemistry and provided chemists with a powerful and versatile reagent for synthesis of a wide variety of organic and organometallic compounds. This article discusses Grignard reagents in the broader context of organomagnesium chemistry. Preparatory methods surveyed include direct reaction of organic halides with the metal, exchange reactions with other organometallic compounds, as well as carbo- and hydrometalations. The current level of understanding of the mechanism of Grignard formation is summarized. The formation and reactivity of unusual species such as cluster Grignard reagents, for example, RMg4X (R = organic group, and X = halide) and polymagnesium compounds, for example, Ru[C5(MgCl)5]2 are also discussed. The bonding and structure of organomagnesium compounds (as well as that of beryllium analogues) as described by diffraction methods, thermochemical data, colligative properties, spectroscopic (vibrational, nuclear magnetic, and electronic) measurements, kinetic studies, mass spectrometry, and theoretical methods are outlined.

The most prominent chemical property of organomagnesium compounds is their ability to deliver an effectively ‘anionic’ organic group with nucleophilic properties. As alkylating reagents, their important reactions include nucleophilic displacement of less basic leaving groups from saturated carbon atoms or other elements, addition to carbonyl groups and other unsaturated functions, and nucleophilic substitution at the acyl group of carboxylic acid derivatives. This broad array of substrates is surveyed, as are the effects of solvents and catalysts on reactivity. Less conspicuous reactions with wholly or predominantly inorganic substrates are also considered. Electron transfer reactions where organomagnesium compounds act as reductants are discussed.

Organoberyllium compounds are more difficult to prepare and are less nucleophilic than their magnesium counterparts. These features, together with their high toxicity, have limited their utility. Methods of preparation, as well as descriptions of bonding, structure, and reactivity patterns are presented. Of special note are recent advances in cyclopentadienyl beryllium chemistry, as well as the advent of beryllium–silicon chemistry.


  • beryllium;
  • magnesium;
  • organometallic;
  • grignard;
  • beryllocene;
  • magnesocene;
  • silylene;
  • cyclopentadiene