The Organometallic Reader

Dedicated to the teaching and learning of modern organometallic chemistry.

Posts Tagged ‘steric factors

Migratory Insertion: Introduction & CO Insertions

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We’ve seen that the metal-ligand bond is generally polarized toward the ligand, making it nucleophilic. When a nucleophilic, X-type ligand is positioned cis to an unsaturated ligand in an organometallic complex, an interesting process that looks a bit like nucleophilic addition can occur.

Migratory insertion into a metal-carbon bond.

Migratory insertion into a metal-carbon bond.

On the whole, the unsaturated ligand appears to insert itself into the M–X bond; hence, the process is called migratory insertion. An open coordination site shows up in the complex, and is typically filled by an added ligand. The open site may appear where the unsaturated ligand was or where the X-type ligand was, depending on which group actually moved (see below). There is no change in oxidation state at the metal (unless the ligand is an alkylidene/alkylidyne), but the total electron count of the complex decreases by two during the actual insertion event—notice in the above example that the complex goes from 18 to 16 total electrons after insertion. A dative ligand comes in to fill that empty coordination site, but stay flexible here: L could be a totally different ligand or a Lewis base in the X-type ligand. L can even be the carbonyl oxygen itself!

X can migrate onto unsaturated ligand Y, or Y onto X. The former is more common for CO insertions.

X can migrate onto unsaturated ligand Y, or Y onto X. The former is more common for CO insertions.

We can distinguish between two types of insertions, which differ in the number of atoms in the unsaturated ligand involved in the step. Insertions of CO, carbenes, and other η1 unsaturated ligands are called 1,1-insertions because the X-type ligand moves from its current location on the metal to one spot over, on the atom bound to the metal. η2 ligands like alkenes and alkynes can also participate in migratory insertion; these reactions are called 1,2-insertions because the X-type ligand slides two atoms over, from the metal to the distal atom of the unsaturated ligand.

1,2-insertion of an alkene and hydride. In some cases, an agostic interaction has been observed in the unsaturated intermediate.

1,2-insertion of an alkene and hydride. In some cases, an agostic interaction has been observed in the unsaturated intermediate.

This is really starting to look like the addition of M and X across a π bond! However, we should take care to distinguish this completely intramolecular process from the attack of a nucleophile or electrophile on a coordinated π system, which is a different beast altogether. Confusingly, chemists often jumble up all of these processes using words like “hydrometalation,” “carbometalation,” “aminometalation,” etc. Another case of big words being used to obscure ignorance! We’ll look at nucleophilic and electrophilic attack on coordinated ligands in separate posts.

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Written by Michael Evans

November 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Reductive Elimination: General Ideas

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Reductive elimination is the microscopic reverse of oxidative addition. It is literally oxidative addition run in reverse—oxidative addition backwards in time! My favorite analogy for microscopic reversibility is the video game Braid, in which “resurrection is the microscopic reverse of death.” The player can reverse time to “undo” death; viewed from the forward direction, “undoing death” is better called “resurrection.” Chemically, reductive elimination and oxidative addition share the same reaction coordinate. The only difference between their reaction coordinate diagrams relates to what we call “reactants” and “products.” Thus, their mechanisms depend on one another, and trends in the speed and extent of oxidative additions correspond to opposite trends in reductive eliminations. In this post, we’ll address reductive elimination in a general sense, as we did for oxidative addition in a previous post.

A general reductive elimination. Notice that the oxidation state of the metal decreases by two units, and open coordination sites become available.

A general reductive elimination. The oxidation state of the metal decreases by two units, and open coordination sites become available.

During reductive elimination, the electrons in the M–X bond head toward ligand Y, and the electrons in M–Y head to the metal. The eliminating ligands are always X-type! On the whole, the oxidation state of the metal decreases by two units, two new open coordination sites become available, and an X–Y bond forms. What does the change in oxidation state suggest about changes in electron density at the metal? As suggested by the name “reductive,” the metal gains electrons. The ligands lose electrons as the new X–Y bond cannot possibly be polarized to both X and Y, as the original M–X and M–Y bonds were. Using these ideas, you may already be thinking about reactivity trends in reductive elimination…hold that thought. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Michael Evans

October 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

Oxidative Addition of Non-polar Reagents

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How important are oxidative additions of non-polar reagents? Very. The addition of dihydrogen (H2) is an important step in catalytic hydrogenation reactions. Organometallic C–H activations depend on oxidative additions of C–H bonds. In a fundamental sense, oxidative additions of non-polar organic compounds are commonly used to establish critical metal-carbon bonds. Non-polar oxidative additions get the ball rolling in all kinds of catalytic organometallic reactions. In this post, we’ll examine the mechanisms and important trends associated with non-polar oxidative additions.

Oxidative Additions of H2

Electron-rich metal centers with open coordination sites (or the ability to form them) undergo oxidative additions with dihydrogen gas. The actual addition step is concerted, as we might expect from the dull H2 molecule! However, before the addition step, some interesting gymnastics are going on. The status of the σ complex that forms prior to H–H insertion is an open question—for some reactions it is a transition state, others a discrete intermediate. In either case, the two new hydride ligands end up cis to one another. Subsequent isomerization may occur to give a trans dihydride.

Oxidative addition of dihydrogen to Vaska's complex. Note the cis arrangement of the hydride ligands.

Oxidative addition of dihydrogen to Vaska’s complex. Note the cis arrangement of the hydride ligands.

There’s more to this little reaction than meets the eye. For starters, either pair of trans ligands in the starting complex (L/L or Cl/CO) may “fold back” to form the final octahedral complex. As in associative ligand substitution, the transition state for folding back is basically trigonal bipyramidal. As we saw before, π-acidic ligands love the equatorial sites of the TBP geometry, which are rich in electrons capable of π bonding. As a consequence, π-acidic ligands get folded back preferentially, and tend to end up cis to their trans partners in the starting complex.

Dihydrogen may approach along two distinct trajectories. Placing π-acidic ligands in the equatorial plane of the TBP transition state is favored.

Dihydrogen may approach along two distinct trajectories. Placing π-acidic ligands in the equatorial plane of the TBP transition state is favored.

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Written by Michael Evans

July 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Oxidative Addition: General Ideas

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A critical difference between the transition metals and the organic elements is the ability of the former to exist in multiple oxidation states. In fact, the redox flexibility of the transition metals and the redox obstinacy of the organic elements work wonderfully together. Why? Imagine the transition metal as a kind of matchmaker for the organic elements. Transition metals can take on additional covalent bonds (oxidation), switch out ligands (substitution), then release new covalent bonds (reduction). The resulting organic products remain unfazed by the metal’s redox insanity. Talk about a match made in heaven!

The following series of posts will deal with the first step of this process, oxidation. More specifically, we’ll discuss the oxidation of transition metals via formal insertion into covalent bonds, also known as oxidative addition (OA). Although we often think of oxidative addition as an elementary reaction of organometallic chemistry, it is not an elementary mechanistic step. In fact, oxidative addition can proceed through a variety of mechanisms. Furthermore, any old change in oxidation state does not an oxidative addition make (that almost rhymes…). Formally, the attachment of an electrophile to a metal center (e.g., protonation) represents oxidation, but we shouldn’t call this oxidative addition, since two ligands aren’t entering the fray. Instead, we call this oxidative ligation (OL).

Oxidative addition involves formal bond insertion and the introduction of two new ligands to the metal. Oxidative ligation, OTOH, involves the coordination of only one new ligand, an electrophile.

Oxidative addition involves formal bond insertion and the introduction of two new ligands to the metal. Oxidative ligation, OTOH, involves the coordination of only one new ligand, an electrophile.

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Dissociative Ligand Substitution

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Associative substitution is unlikely for saturated, 18-electron complexes—coordination of another ligand would produce a 20-electron intermediate. For 18-electron complexes, dissociative substitution mechanisms involving 16-electron intermediates are more likely. In a slow step with positive entropy of activation, the departing ligand leaves, generating a coordinatively unsaturated intermediate. The incoming ligand then enters the coordination sphere of the metal to generate the product. For the remainder of this post, we’ll focus on the kinetics of the reaction and the nature of the unsaturated intermediate (which influences the stereochemistry of the reaction). The reverse of the first step, re-coordination of the departing ligand (rate constant k–1), is often competitive with dissociation.

A general scheme for dissociative ligand substitution.

A general scheme for dissociative ligand substitution. There’s more to the intermediate than meets the eye!

Reaction Kinetics

Let’s begin with the general situation in which k1 and k–1 are similar in magnitude. Since k1 is rate limiting, k2 is assumed to be much larger than k1 and k–1. Most importantly, we need to assume that variation in the concentration of the unsaturated intermediate is essentially zero. This is called the steady state approximation, and it allows us to set up an equation that relates reaction rate to observable concentrations Hold onto that for a second; first, we can use step 2 to establish a preliminary rate expression.

(1)     rate = k2[LnM–◊][Li]

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Epic Ligand Survey: Metal Alkyls (Part 2)

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In this post, we’ll explore the most common synthetic methods for the synthesis of alkyl complexes. In addition to enumerating the reactions that produce alkyl complexes, this post will also describe strategies for getting around β-hydride elimination when isolable alkyl complexes are the goal. Here we go!

Properties of Stable Alkyl Complexes

Stable alkyl complexes must be resistant to β-hydride elimination. In the last post we identified four key conditions necessary for elimination to occur:

1. The β-carbon must bear a hydrogen.
2. The M–C and C–H bonds must be able to achieve a syn coplanar orientation (pointing in the same direction in parallel planes).
3. The metal must bear 16 total electrons or fewer and possess an open coordination site.
4. The metal must be at least d2.

Stable alkyl complexes must violate at least one of these conditions. For example, titanium(IV) complexes lacking d electrons β-eliminate very slowly. The complex below likely also benefits from chelation (see below).

Without d electrons, elimination becomes difficult.

No d electrons here!

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Written by Michael Evans

March 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

Gee, I’m a Tree: Predicting the Geometry of Organometallic Complexes

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An important issue that we’ve glossed over until now concerns what organometallic complexes actually look like: what are their typical geometries? Can we use any of the “bookkeeping metrics” we’ve explored so far to reliably predict geometry? The answer to the latter questions is a refreshing but qualified “yes.” In this post, we’ll explore the possibilities for complex geometry and develop some general guidelines for predicting geometry. In the process we’ll enlist the aid of a powerful theoretical ally, crystal field theory (CFT). CFT provides some intuitive explanations for geometry the geometry of OM complexes. Here we go!

Because OM complexes feature a variety of coordination numbers, the possibilities for geometry are numerous. The common geometries of organic chemistry—linear, pyramidal, trigonal planar, and tetrahedral—are available to OM complexes too. Many complexes exhibit a second kind of four-coordinate geometry, square planar. Five-coordinate complexes may exhibit either square pyramidal or (my personal favorite) trigonal bipyramidal geometries. Six-coordinate complexes feature either octahedral geometry or the rare but intriguing trigonal prismatic arrangement. The figure below summarizes these possibilities (minus the two-coordinate geometries, which we won’t deal with).

Common geometries of organometallic complexes.

Common geometries of organometallic complexes.

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Written by Michael Evans

January 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm