Hello, reders welcome to “chemwhite.com” today I am going to explain about unidentate, didentate and ambidentate ligands and all facts.

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What is Ambidentate ligands?

Ambidentate ligands is one type of ligands in which it can ligate through two different atoms is called ambidentate ligands.

An ambidentate ligand is a type of ligand in chemistry that can bind to a metal center through two different atoms.

The prefix “ambi-” means “both” or “two,” and “dentate” Means the number of atoms in a ligand that can bind to a metal center.

chemistry, ligands are play a crucial/important role in determining/find the properties and reactivity of metals complexes. these molecules act as electron donors, forming coordination bonds with metal centers and influencing the overall structure and behavior of the resulting complexes.

Among the diverse ligands available, ambidentate ligands stand out for their unique ability to coordinate through multiple atoms, showcasing remarkable versatility in the formation of metal-ligand bonds.


This article delves into the fascinating world of ambidentate ligands, exploring their characteristics, applications, and significance in modern chemistry.

Ambidentate ligands are often polyatomic ions, meaning that they contain more than one atom.

These ligands have the ability to coordinate with the metal center through different atoms, which can result in different geometries and reactivities of the metal complexes formed.

For example,

Thiocyanate ion (SCN-)

It can bind to a metal center through either the sulfur atom or the nitrogen atom, giving rise to different coordination isomers.


the nitrite ion (NO2-) can bind to a metal center through either the nitrogen atom or one of the two oxygen atoms.

The ability of ambidentate ligands to coordinate through different atoms can also affect the stability and selectivity of metal complexes in various reactions, making them an important concept in coordination chemistry.

For examples of

  1. NO2
  2. CSN
  1. If we are talking about NO2- molecules in which this molecules can coordinate with nitrogen or with oxygen.
  2. If we are talking about CSN- ions, this type of molecules can also coordinate with sulphur and nitrogen atoms.

Ambidentate ligands examples

Ambidentate ligands are ligands that can bind to a metal center through different atoms.

Here are some examples of ambidentate ligands:

  1. Nitrite (NO2-): This ligand can bind to a metal center through either the nitrogen or the oxygen atom.
  2. Thiocyanate (SCN-): This ligand can bind to a metal center through either the sulfur or the nitrogen atom.
  3. Nitro (NO2-): This ligand can bind to a metal center through either one of the two oxygen atoms.
  4. Azide (N3-): This ligand can bind to a metal center through either the central nitrogen atom or one of the two terminal nitrogen atoms.
  5. Cyanide (CN-): This ligand can bind to a metal center through either the carbon or the nitrogen atom.
  6. Acetate (CH3COO-): This ligand can bind to a metal center through either the oxygen of the carbonyl group or the oxygen of the carboxylate group.

These are just a few examples of ambidentate ligands; there are many more. The ability of a ligand to bind through different atoms can have important implications for the stereochemistry and reactivity of metal complexes.

Versatility and Structural Isomerism

The ability of ambidentate ligands to form coordination bonds through multiple atoms opens up a world of possibilities for structural diversity and isomerism in coordination compounds.

The ligand’s flexibility allows for the formation of different isomeric complexes, where the ligand coordinates to the metal in distinct ways.

This structural variability influences various properties of the resulting complexes, including stability, reactivity, and spectroscopic characteristics.

Unidentate ligand

Molecules have only one donor atom is called unidentate ligands such as nh3 ammonia, and water, and CO.

for examples,



this molecules have only one loan pair and only one donor atom (N). so we can say that ammonia molecules is unidentate ligands.

The negative ion or neutral molecules such as Ammonia, water. this type of molecules have capability to manage only one donor atom, due to this reason, we can say, this is unidentate ligands.


unidentate ligands

similarly, we can say that wate molecules have only one donor atom (O oxygen). Here, oxygen have two loan pair but it donate only one loan pair, this is the reason it is know as monodentate ligands or unidentate ligands.

Read MoreWhat are Ambident Nucleophiles explain with an examples?

Bidentate or Didentate ligands

Molecules have two donor atoms are called bidentate/ didentate ligands. such as ethylene diamine.

for examples,

Ethylene diamine

Bidentate or Didentate ligands

Due to structure of ethylene diamine, there are two donor atoms (both N) are present in this compound. so, we can say that this is bidentate ligands. it is clearly show in structure.

Types of ligands

1. Menodentate ligands/ Unidentate ligands.

2. Polydentate ligands

(a) Bidentate ligands

(b) Tridentate ligands

(c) Tetradentate ligands

(d) Pentadentate ligands

(e) Hexadentate ligands

1. Menodentate ligands/ unidentate ligands

It is define as, if molecules have only one donor atom, and only one donor atom present in molecules, this type of molecules is called menodentate ligands Or unidentate ligands.

for examples,

(a) NH3

(b) PH3

(c) CO

(d) NO

2. Polydentate ligands

Bidentate ligands – It is define as, If molecules have two donor atom or if two donor atom persent in this molecules. then this type of molecules is known as bidentate ligands. you can understand with help of example or chemical structure.

for examples,

(a) Carbonate ion

bidentate ligands

According to this structure, it is clear, there are two donor atom (both O) is persent in carbonate ion. If two donor atom are persent, due to this, it is bidentate ligands.

Tridentate ligands – It is define as, If molecules have three donor atom or if molecules have capability to reach three donor atom. then we can say that this type of molecules is tridentate ligands. you can understand with proper examples and chemical structure.

for examples,

(a) Diethylene tridiamine (dien)

tridentate ligands

Tetradentate ligands – It is define as, molecules have four donor atom. if four donor atom are persent in molecules then this type of molecules is known as tetradentate ligands.

for examples,

(a) Nitro acetate

tetradentate ligands

Pentadentate ligands – It is define as If molecules have 5 donor atom. this is called pentadentate ligands. if 5 donor atoms are persent in molecules then this is know as pentadentate ligands.

for examples

(a) Ethylene diamine tri acetate ion

Pentadentate ligands

Hexadentante ligands – It is define as, If 6 donor atom are persent in molecules then this is know as hexadentante ligands.

for best examples are,

(a) ethylene diamine tetra acetate ion

hexadentante ligands

Applications in Coordination Chemistry

  1. Coordination Polymers: Ambidentate ligands are widely utilized in the synthesis of coordination polymers, which are extended structures consisting of metal ions interconnected by coordinating ligands. The multiple coordination modes of ambidentate ligands contribute to the formation of intricate networks and enhance the structural diversity of coordination polymers.
  2. Selective Complexation: Ambidentate ligands offer a unique advantage in selective complexation. The coordination preferences of these ligands can be tuned by varying reaction conditions or introducing steric or electronic effects. This selectivity allows for controlled synthesis of specific isomeric complexes, enabling targeted applications in catalysis, sensing, and material science.
  3. Chelation Therapy: The ambidentate ligand ethylenediaminetetraacetate (EDTA) is widely known for its application in chelation therapy. EDTA can form stable complexes with metal ions, preventing their participation in harmful chemical reactions in the body. This therapeutic approach is employed to treat heavy metal poisoning and is crucial in medical and environmental contexts.
  4. Molecular Switches and Sensors: Ambidentate ligands can serve as building blocks for the design of molecular switches and sensors. The reversible coordination behavior of these ligands allows for the construction of responsive systems that undergo structural or electronic changes in response to external stimuli, such as pH, temperature, or light. This property is harnessed in the development of smart materials and sensing devices.

Future Directions and Challenges

The field of ambidentate ligands continues to evolve, with ongoing research focusing on the design of novel ligands and the exploration of their applications in diverse areas. Understanding the factors that govern the selectivity of ambidentate ligands remains a significant challenge, as does the development of ligands with tailored coordination properties.


Ambidentate ligands showcase the remarkable ability of molecules to exhibit multiple coordination modes, unlocking a world of structural diversity and reactivity in coordination chemistry.

Their versatility has paved the way for groundbreaking applications in fields ranging from materials science to medicine.

As research in this field progresses, the development of new ambidentate ligands promises to contribute to the advancement of molecular design


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