In chemistry, a chemical conformation is the spatial arrangement of atoms in a molecule. Molecules in which atoms are linked together in the same way, but in which their spatial arrangement are different are called conformational isomers or conformers (contrast to structural isomers and Stereoisomerism). Different conformers can interconvert by rotation around single bonds, without the breaking of chemical bonds. Since the rotations have different energy barriers, some conformations are more stable than others, an example of where this can easily be see is protein folding, where the protein fold into a stable conformation which is functional while other possible conformations often are not.
Chemical conformations can be draw in several ways. Sawhorse representation views a C-C bond from an oblique angle. Newman projection views a C-C bond from front to back, front carbon as a dot and back carbon as a circle.
Chemical conformations exist in many ways:
- Alkanes can be seen to have two possible conformations between each of their C-C bonds. Staggered is a conformation where hydrogens of on carbon is rotated 60 degrees from the hydrogens on the other carbon. Eclipsed is a conformation where the hydrogens on the different carbons are superposed. Staggered versus ecplised follows a Boltzmann distribution from pure staggered to pure ecplised.
The subscript i and j represent the highest and lowest energy, ecplised and staggered. g is the number of conformations found at that particular energy, the degeneracy. N is the population of molecules in a particular conformation.