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What are Boranes?

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Borane is a homologous sequence of inorganic boron-hydrogen compounds and their derivatives. Boranes are the common name for a class of synthetic boron hydrides with the formula BxHy (borane formula). Because of their multicenter bonding (in which a pair of bonding electrons binds more than two atoms, as in 3-centre-2-electron bonds), borane molecules were previously called "electron-deficient." This was done to differentiate such molecules from hydrocarbons and other classically bonded compounds. This is incorrect, since most boranes and associated clusters, such as carboranes, are electron-precise rather than electron-deficient.

This article will study borane, borane structure, boron hydride, and BH3 structure in detail.

Boron Hydride

Although some boranes, such as B18H22 the dianions (n = 6 -12) and many neutral boranes like B18H22, are highly reactive with electron-pair donors, others, such as the BnH2n dianions (n = 6 -12), are not. In the presence of air, some lower boranes become pyrophoric and react with water. Boranes are a type of cluster compound that has been the subject of recent advances in chemical bonding theory. 

History of Borane 

  • A variety of difficulties arose during the production of borane’s chemistry. To begin, new laboratory techniques to handle these often pyrophoric compounds had to be created. For synthesis and handling, Alfred Stock invented the glass vacuum line, now known as a Schlenk line. Crystal structure determination was impossible until William Lipscomb established the necessary techniques due to the highly reactive nature of the lower boranes.

  • H. Christopher Languet-Higgins predicted the correct structure of diborane five years before it was discovered. The structure of boranes can be predicted using polyhedral skeletal electron pair theory (Wade's rules).

  • The potential of uranium borohydride for enriching uranium isotopes piqued interest in boranes during World War II. The basic chemistry of boron hydrides and associated aluminum hydrides was discovered in the United States by a team led by Schlesinger.

Borane Structure and Borane Formula

According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, systematic naming is based on a prefix denoting a class of compound, followed by the number of boron atoms, and finally the number of hydrogen atoms in parentheses. If there is no doubt regarding the context, for example, if only one structural form is possible, various specifics may be omitted. Below are some examples of the borane structures.

The first structure shows the structure of BH3 while the other three shows higher borane structures.

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The number of hydrogen atoms is defined first, followed by the number of boron atoms. For anions, the -ate suffix is used. The meaning of the ionic charge is included in the chemical formula but not in the systematic term.


Boranes are non-classical–bonded materials, meaning that there aren't enough electrons in the molecule to form 2-center, 2-electron bonds between all pairs of adjacent atoms. William Lipscomb formulated a description of the bonding in the larger boranes. It entailed:

  1. B-H-B hydrogen bridges with three centers and two electrons

  2. B-B-B bonds with three centers and two electrons

  3. 2-middle Electron bonds with two electrons (in B-B, B-H, and BH2)

A molecular orbital approach has essentially replaced Lipscomb's technique. The principle of multicenter bonding can now be expanded. The totally symmetric (Ag symmetry) molecular orbital is equally distributed among all 12 boron atoms in the icosahedral ion [B12H12]2-, for example. Wade's laws are a strong tool for rationalizing structures in terms of the number of atoms and their connectivity. The treatment of bonding in boranes is still being improved by theoretical chemists—one example is Stone's tensor surface harmonic treatment of cluster bonding. The four-centre two-electron bond is a recent development.

Reactions of Borane and Higher Borane

  1. BH3, the lowest borane, is a strong Lewis acid. Although the molecule itself only exists for a short time before dimerizing to form diborane, B2H6, its adducts BH3.THF and BH3DMSO are stable enough to be used in hydroboration reactions. Other boranes are electrophilic, which means they react quickly with reagents that can provide electron pairs. For example, an alkali metal hydride.

B2H6 + 2 H→ 2 BH4

  1. Some lower boranes have a strongly exothermic reaction with air; for example, the reactions of B2H6 and B5H9 are explosive even at very low concentrations. There is no intrinsic instability in the boranes that causes this. Rather, it is due to the fact that boron trioxide, a combustion product, is solid. As an example,

B2H6(g) + 3 O2(g) → B2O3(s) + 3 H2O(g)

Applications of Borane

  1. The hydroboration reaction is the most common chemical application of boranes. In this case, commercially available adducts such as borane–tetrahydrofuran or borane–dimethylsulfide are often used because they have comparable results without the risk of handling highly reactive BH3.

  2. Cancer neutron capture therapy is a promising new development. The compound used is Na2[B12H11(SH)], an HS– (bisulfite) derivative. It takes advantage of the fact that 10B has a large neutron-capture cross-section, making neutron irradiation highly selective for the compound's location.

  3. Boranes, as compared to hydrocarbons, have high specific energy of combustion, making them a potential fuel. Extensive research into their use as jet fuel additives was conducted in the 1950s, but no practical results were obtained.

Did You Know?

  • The chemical compound diborane has the molecular formula B2H6(formula of diborane) and is made up of boron and hydrogen atoms. This material has a sweet odour and is extremely unstable at room temperature. Boranes are materials that contain both boron and hydrogen atoms. One of the most basic boron hydrides is diborane. The Diborane molecule is made up of four hydrogen atoms and two boron atoms that are all in the same plane. Two dividing hydrogen atoms are said to exist within these planes.

  • The boron atom has four hybrid orbitals and is believed to be sp3 hybridized. Three of the four hybrid orbitals have one electron each, with the fourth orbital being an empty orbital. The two-hybrid orbital electrons in each boron atom form two bonds with the 1s hydrogen atoms. The two boron atoms left with each unpaired electron orbital and empty orbital form two bridging's (B–H–B) bonds with the two 1s hydrogen atoms, which is also known as the banana bond.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Diborane Used for?

Ans: Diborane is used as a reducing agent, a rubber vulcanizer, a catalyst for hydrocarbon polymerization, a flame-speed accelerator, and a doping agent in rocket propellants. It's also used in electronics to give pure crystals electrical properties.

2. What are Higher Boranes?

Ans: Boron hydrides, also known as boranes, are a group of compounds with the formula BxHy. All of the higher boranes are made up of boron clusters that are polyhedral in nature. A significant number of anionic boron hydrides exist in addition to neutral boranes.

3. Why is BH3 Unstable?

Ans: Since there are 6 electrons around the 'B' atom, the BH3 molecule is an electron-deficient molecule in nature. Since hydrogen is small and electron-deficient, it cannot donate electrons to boron. As a result, BH3 dimerizes to make up for the electron deficiency and achieve stability.