The toxicity of organomercury compounds presents both dangers and benefits. Dimethylmercury in particular, is notoriously toxic, but has found use as an antifungal agent and insecticide. Merbromin is used as a topical antiseptic.
Organomercury compounds are generated by many methods, including the direct reaction of hydrocarbons and mercury(II) salts. In this regard, organomercury chemistry more closely resembles organopalladium chemistry and contrasts with organocadmium compounds.
Mercuration of aromatic rings
- C6H5OH + Hg(O2CCH3)2 → C6H4(OH)-2-HgO2CCH3 + CH3CO2H
- C6H4(OH)-2-HgO2CCH3 + NaCl → C6H4(OH)-2-HgCl + NaO2CCH3
Addition to alkenes
- Hg(O2CCH3)2 + CH2=CHCO2CH3 → CH3OCH2CH(HgO2CCH3)CO2CH3
- CH3OCH2CH(HgO2CCH3)CO2CH3 + Br2 → CH3OCH2CHBrCO2CH3 + BrHgO2CCH3
Reaction of Hg(II) compounds with carbanion equivalents
A general synthetic route to organomercury compounds entails alkylation with Grignard reagents and organolithium compounds. Diethylmercury results from the reaction of mercury chloride with two equivalents of ethylmagnesium bromide, a conversion that would typically be conducted in diethyl ether solution. The resulting (CH3CH2)2Hg is a dense liquid (2.466 g/cm3) that boils at 57 °C at 16 torr. The compound is slightly soluble in ethanol and soluble in ether.
Similarly, diphenylmercury (m.p. 121-123 °C) can be prepared by reaction of mercury chloride and phenylmagnesium bromide. A related preparation entails formation of phenyl sodium in the presence of mercury(II) salts. 
Phenyl(trichloromethyl)mercury compounds can be prepared by generating dichlorocarbene in the presence of phenylmercuric chloride. A convenient carbene source is sodium trichloroacetate. This compound on heating releases dichlorocarbene:
- C6H5HgCCl3 → C6H5HgCl + CCl2
Organomercury compounds are versatile synthetic intermediates due to the well controlled conditions that they undergo cleavage of the Hg-C bonds. Diphenylmercury is a source of the phenyl radical in certain syntheses. Treatment with aluminium gives triphenyl aluminium:
- Ph2Hg + 2 Al → (AlPh3)2 + 3 Hg
As indicated above, organomercury compounds react with halogens to give the corresponding organic halide.
Due to its toxicity and low nucleophilicity, organomercury compounds find limited use. The oxymercuration reaction of alkenes to alcohols using mercuric acetate proceeds via organomercury intermediates. A related reaction forming phenols is the Wolfenstein-Boters reaction.
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Mercury poisoning
- Minamata disease
- Compounds of carbon with other elements in the periodic table:
|Core organic chemistry||many uses in chemistry.|
|Academic research, but no widespread use||Bond unknown / not assessed.|
- ↑ Whitmore, F. C.; Hanson, E. R. (1941). "o-Chloromercuriphenol". Org. Synth.; Coll. Vol. 1: 161.
- ↑ Carter, H. E.; West, H. D. (1955 prep = cv3p0774). "dl-Serine". Org. Synth.; Coll. Vol. 3: 774.
- ↑ Synthetic Methods of Organometallic and Inorganic Chemistry Volume 5, Copper, Silver, Gold, Zinc, Cadmium, and Mercury W.A. Herrmann Ed. ISBN 3-13-103061-5
- ↑ Calvery, H. O. (1941). "Diphenylmercury". Org. Synth.; Coll. Vol. 1: 228.
- ↑ Nesmajanow, A. N. (1943). "β-Naphthylmercuric Chloride". Org. Synth.; Coll. Vol. 2: 432.
- ↑ Logan, T. J. (1973). "Phenyl(trichloromethyl)mercury". Org. Synth.; Coll. Vol. 5: 969.
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