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A geometrical analysis has been performed on π–π stacking in metal complexes with aromatic nitrogen-containing ligands based on a Cambridge Structural Database search and on X-ray data of examples in the recent literature. It is evident that a face-to-face π–π alignment where most of the ring-plane area overlaps is a rare phenomenon. The usual π interaction is an offset or slipped stacking, i.e. the rings are parallel displaced. The ring normal and the vector between the ring centroids form an angle of about 20° up to centroid–centroid distances of 3.8 Å. Such a parallel-displaced structure also has a contribution from π–σ attraction, the more so with increasing offset. Only a limited number of structures with a near to perfect facial alignment exists. The term π–π stacking is occasionally used even when there is no substantial overlap of the π-ring planes. There is a number of metal–ligand complexes where only the edges of the rings interact in what would be better described a C–Hπ attraction.
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Journal of the Chemical Society, Dalton Transactions
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