The Organometallic Reader

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Posts Tagged ‘reduction potentials

Epic Ligand Survey: Metal Alkyls (Part 3)

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In this last post on alkyl ligands, we’ll explore the major modes of reactivity of metal alkyls. We’ve discussed β-hydride elimination in detail, but other fates of metal alkyls include reductive elimination, transmetallation, and  migratory insertion into the M–C bond. In a similar manner to our studies of other ligands, we’d like to relate the steric and electronic properties of the metal alkyl complex to its propensity to undergo these reactions. This kind of thinking is particularly important when we’re interested in controlling the relative rates and/or extents of two different, competing reaction pathways.

Reactions of Metal Alkyl Complexes

Recall that β-hydride elimination is an extremely common—and sometimes problematic—transformation of metal alkyls. Then again, there are reactions for which β-hydride elimination is desirable, such as the Heck reaction. Structural modifications that strengthen the M–H bond relative to the M–C bond encourage β-hydride elimination; the step can also be driven by trapping of the metal hydride product with a base (the Heck reaction uses this idea).

During the Heck reaction, beta-hydride elimination is driven by a base.

During the Heck reaction, beta-hydride elimination is driven by a base.

On the flip side, stabilization of the M–C bond discourages elimination and encourages its reverse: migratory insertion of olefins into M–H. Previously we saw the example of perfluoroalkyl ligands, which possess exceptionally stable M–C bonds. The fundamental idea here—that electron-withdrawing groups on the alkyl ligand stabilize the M–C bond—is quite general. Hartwig describes an increase in the “ionic character” of the M–C bond upon the addition of electron-withdrawing groups to the alkyl ligand (thereby strengthening the M–C bond, since ionic bonds are stronger than covalent bonds). Bond energies from organic chemistry bear out this idea to an extent; for instance, see the relative BDEs of Me–Me, Me–Ph, and Me–CCH in this reference. I still find this explanation a little “hand-wavy,” but it serves our purpose, I suppose. Read the rest of this entry »