CHEM1101: Basic Inorganic Chemistry

Course Organizer: Dr B Slater

Lecturers: Dr J Cockcroft, Dr B Slater, Prof D A Tocher

Normal prerequisite: CHEM1004

Units: 1/2 unit

Moodle page:


  • To introduce certain key aspects of inorganic chemistry, including solid state structures, the chemistry of phosphorus and hydrogen and transition metal chemistry.
  • To provide (via the laboratory course) training and experience in practical aspects of inorganic chemistry, including synthesis, qualitative, IR spectroscopy, and powder X-ray diffraction.
  • To introduce the synergy between the theoretical and practical aspects of inorganic chemistry via the close relationship of the laboratory work to the other components of the course. 


At the end of the course students will be able to

  • explain certain key introductory concepts in inorganic chemistry (e.g. crystal field theory, common structural types, bonding)
  • to use these concepts in problem solving, describe and place in context the chemistry of main group elements (using phosphorus as an example) and transition metals,
  • use the skills developed in the laboratory course in qualitative and quantitative analysis and in the synthesis of inorganic compounds. 

Course Structure

  • Lectures: 24
  • Tutorials: weekly
  • Labs:6 sessions


  • Exam: 70 % ( 2 hours)
  • Lab: 15 %
  • Coursework: x3 marked class tests (closed book) - 15 %

Practical course organizer:

Dr Rob Palgrave

Recommended Texts

D Shriver and P W Atkins, "Inorganic Chemistry", 3nd ed, Oxford UP, 1999.


  • C. E. Housecroft and A. G. Sharpe, "Inorganic Chemistry", 3rd Edition, Pearson
  • F A Cotton, G Wilkinson & P L Gauss, "Basic Inorganic Chemistry", 5th edition, Wiley, 1987.
  • K F Purcell & J C Kotz, "Inorganic Chemistry",Holt-Saunders, 1977.
  • D A Johnson, "Some Thermodynamic Aspects of Inorganic Chemistry", 3rd edition, Cambridge, 1989.
  • W.D.Callister, "Materials Science and Engineering; an Introduction", J.Wiley, 5th edition, 2000


  • F A Cotton, G Wilkinson, C A. Murillo and M. Bochmann, "Advanced Inorganic Chemistry", 6th edition, Wiley, 1999
  • N N Greenwood & R Earnshaw, "Chemistry of the Elements", 2nd edition, Pergamon, 1997. Earlier editions will also serve you well.

We advise you to buy a copy of the recommended text and, if possible, one of the two advanced texts. You will use them for the next three years. Their relative merits will be discussed in the first lecture.

Further Reading

Supplementary material will be found in standard inorganic textbooks.

Course Outline

(Note: this is not necessarily the order of lectures)

Block A Introduction to the Transition Elements JKC, 8 lectures

  • High and low valent centres - oxidation states and d-electron counts.
  • Coordination complexes - coordination number and geometry.
  • Types of ligand-charged, neutral, monodentate, polydentate, chelating ligands and the chelate effect.
  • Isomerism in transition metal complexes - geometrical, optical, linkage and ionisation isomers.
  • An introduction to Crystal Field Theory (CFT) - splitting of d-orbitals into non-degenerate sets.
  • Consequences of CFT within octahedral and tetrahedral complexes, e.g. colour and magnetism.
  • Crystal Field Stabilisation Energy (CFSE) and experimental evidence to support it from (a) thermodynamics and (b) cation ordering in spinels.

Block B Introduction to the Solid State BS, 8 lectures

  • Types of regular crystalline solid encountered in inorganic chemistry.
  • Unit cells, crystal systems, lattice points and Bravais lattices. 
  • Planes and Miller indices.
  • Determination of crystal structures. X-ray diffraction and Bragg's Law.
  • Structures of the solid elements, including hexagonal and cubic close-packed structures.
  • Binary ionic solids. Packing of cations into hcp anf fcc arrays of anions. Derivation of structures of binary compounds: NaCl, NiAs, ZnS, CsCl, CaF2, CdI2 and metal hydrides.
  • Radius ratio rules, co-ordination number and geometry.
  • Energetics of ionic solids. Calculation of lattice energies. Born-Haber cycles and 'experimental' lattice energies.

Block C Chemistry and Periodicity of Group 15 elements, DAT, 8 lectures

  • Revision of VSEPR
  • Trends in thermodynamic properties of the elements P, As, Sb and Bi (and their compounds)
  • Isolation and structures of the elements
  • Synthesis and properties of the halides - with particular reference to stereochemistry
  • Reactions of PCl3 to form phosphines/phosphites and their use as ligands on transition metals
  • Phosphonium salts and Phosphorus Ylids (applications in organic synthesis)
  • Organo compounds of the heavier elements
  • The chemistry of P/N compounds
  • Oxides and Oxy-acids of phosphorus and comparisons with As and Sb
  • Polyphosphates