Chromium(III) chloride (also called chromic chloride) describes any of several compounds of with the formula CrCl3 • xH2O, where x can be 0, 5, and 6. The anhydrous compound with the formula CrCl3 is a violet solid. The most common form of the trichloride is the dark green hexahydrate, CrCl3 • 6H2O. Chromium chlorides find use as catalysts and as precursors to dyes for wool.
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||158.36 g/mol (anhydrous) |
266.45 g/mol (hexahydrate)
|Appearance||purple (anhydrous), dark green (hexahydrate)|
|Density||2.87 g/cm3 (anhydrous) |
1.760 g/cm3 (hexahydrate)
|Melting point|| 1,152 °C (2,106 °F; 1,425 K) (anhydrous) |
83 °C (hexahydrate)
|Boiling point||1,300 °C (2,370 °F; 1,570 K) decomposes|
|slightly soluble (anhydrous) |
585 g/L (hexahydrate)
|Solubility||insoluble in ethanol |
insoluble in ether, acetone
|Acidity (pKa)||2.4 (0.2M solution)|
|Safety data sheet||ICSC 1316 (anhydrous)|
ICSC 1532 (hexahydrate)
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):|
LD50 (median dose)
|1870 mg/kg (oral, rat)|
|NIOSH (US health exposure limits):|
|TWA 1 mg/m3|
|TWA 0.5 mg/m3|
IDLH (Immediate danger)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Anhydrous chromium(III) chloride adopts the YCl3 structure, with Cr3+ occupying one thirds of the octahedral interstices in alternating layers of a pseudo-cubic close packed lattice of Cl− ions. The absence of cations in alternate layers leads to weak bonding between adjacent layers. For this reason, crystals of CrCl3 cleave easily along the planes between layers, which results in the flaky (micaceous) appearance of samples of chromium(III) chloride.
Space-filling model of cubic close packing of chloride ions in the crystal structure of CrCl3
Ball-and-stick model of part of a layer
Chromium(III) chloride hydratesEdit
Chromium(III) chlorides display the somewhat unusual property of existing in a number of distinct chemical forms (isomers), which differ in terms of the number of chloride anions that are coordinated to Cr(III) and the water of crystallization. The different forms exist both as solids, and in aqueous solutions. Several members are known of the series of [CrCl3−n(H2O)n]z+. The main hexahydrate can be more precisely described as [CrCl2(H2O)4]Cl • 2H2O. It consists of the cation trans-[CrCl2(H2O)4]+ and additional molecules of water and a chloride anion in the lattice. Two other hydrates are known, pale green [CrCl(H2O)5]Cl2 • H2O and violet [Cr(H2O)6]Cl3. Similar behaviour occurs with other chromium(III) compounds.
- Cr2O3 + 3 C + 3 Cl2 → 2 CrCl3 + 3 CO
- CrCl3 • 6H2O + 12 Me3SiCl → CrCl3(THF)3 + 6 (Me3Si)2O + 12 HCl
The hydrated chlorides are prepared by treatment of chromate with hydrochloric acid and methanol. In laboratory the hydrates are usually prepared by dissolving the chromium metal or chromium(III) oxide in hydrochloric acid.
Slow reaction rates are common with chromium(III) complexes. The low reactivity of the d3 Cr3+ ion can be explained using crystal field theory. One way of opening CrCl3 up to substitution in solution is to reduce even a trace amount to CrCl2, for example using zinc in hydrochloric acid. This chromium(II) compound undergoes substitution easily, and it can exchange electrons with CrCl3 via a chloride bridge, allowing all of the CrCl3 to react quickly.
With the presence of some chromium(II), however, solid CrCl3 dissolves rapidly in water. Similarly, ligand substitution reactions of solutions of [CrCl2(H2O)4]+ are accelerated by chromium(II) catalysts.
With molten alkali metal chlorides such as potassium chloride, CrCl3 gives salts of the type M3CrCl6 and K3Cr2Cl9, which is also octahedral but where the two chromiums are linked via three chloride bridges.
Complexes with organic ligandsEdit
CrCl3 is a Lewis acid, classified as "hard" according to the Hard-Soft Acid-Base theory. It forms a variety of adducts of the type [CrCl3L3]z, where L is a Lewis base. For example, it reacts with pyridine (C
5N) to form an adduct:
- CrCl3 + 3 C5H5N → CrCl3(C5H5N)3
- CrCl3.(H2O)6 + 12 (CH3)3SiCl + 3 THF → CrCl3(THF)3 + 6 ((CH3)3Si)2O + 12 HCl
Precursor to organochromium complexesEdit
Use in organic synthesisEdit
One niche use of CrCl3 in organic synthesis is for the in situ preparation of chromium(II) chloride, a reagent for the reduction of alkyl halides and for the synthesis of (E)-alkenyl halides. The reaction is usually performed using two moles of CrCl3 per mole of lithium aluminium hydride, although if aqueous acidic conditions are appropriate zinc and hydrochloric acid may be sufficient.
Although trivalent chromium is far less poisonous than hexavalent, chromium salts are generally considered toxic.
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