Bluffton University

Organic Chemistry

Molecular Models:
Chiral centers

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A. Chiral centers

For a single atom to be chiral, there must be four different substituents attached. Such a carbon atom is called a chiral center. Chirality may be illustrated by considering a series of substituted methanes.

Methane itself is obviously not chiral. It is easy to see that methane can be superimposed on its mirror image; nevertheless, you may want to test this. The same is true for chloromethane.


Bromochloromethane, with three different substituents on carbon, may be more difficult to see; but if you examine the models of the two "different" molecules below you will find that they can be superimposed.

bromochloromethane bromochloromethane

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Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007 by Daniel J. Berger. This work may be copied without limit if its use is to be for non-profit educational purposes. Such copies may be by any method, present or future. The author requests only that this statement accompany all such copies. All rights to publication for profit are retained by the author.