The Organometallic Reader

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Posts Tagged ‘arenes

Epic Ligand Survey: π Systems (Part 2)

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Epic Ligand Survey: Pi Systems (Part 2)Arene or aromatic ligands are the subject of this post, the second in our series on π-system ligands. Arenes are dative, L-type ligands that may serve either as actors or spectators. Arenes commonly bind to metals through more than two atoms, although η2-arene ligands are known. Structurally, most η6-arenes tend to remain planar after binding to metals. Both “normal” bonding and backbonding are possible for arene ligands; however, arenes are stronger electron donors than CO and backbonding is less important for these ligands. The reactivity of arenes changes dramatically upon metal binding, along lines that we would expect for strongly electron-donating ligands. After coordinating to a transition metal, the arene usually becomes a better electrophile (particularly when the metal is electron poor). Thus, metal coordination can enable otherwise difficult nucleophilic aromatic substitution reactions.

General Properties

The coordination of an aromatic compound to a metal center through its aromatic π MOs removes electron density from the ring. I’m going to forego an in-depth orbital analysis in this post, because it’s honestly not very useful (and overly complex) for arene ligands. π → dσ (normal bonding) and dπ → π* (backbonding) orbital interactions are possible for arene ligands, with the former being much more important, typically. To simplify drawings, you often see chemists draw “toilet-bowl” arenes involving a circle and single central line to represent the π → dσ orbital interaction. Despite the single line, it is often useful to think about arenes as L3-type ligands. For instance, we think of η6-arenes as six-electron donors.

Multiple coordination modes are possible for arene ligands. When all six atoms of a benzene ring are bound to the metal (η6-mode), the ring is flat and C–C bond lengths are slightly longer than those in the free arene. The ring is bent and non-aromatic in η4-mode, so that the four atoms bound to the metal are coplanar while the other π bond is out of the plane. η4-Arene ligands show up in both stable complexes (see the figure below) and reactive intermediates that possess an open coordination site. To generate the latter, the corresponding η6-arene ligand undergoes ring slippage—one of the π bonds “slips” off of the metal to create an open coordination site. We’ll see ring slippage again in discussions of the aromatic cyclopentadienyl and indenyl ligands.

Arene ligands exhibit multiple coordination modes.

Arene ligands exhibit multiple coordination modes.

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