Toward E-selective Olefin Metathesis: Computational Design and Experimental Realization of Ruthenium Thio-Indolate Catalysts
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionTopics in catalysis. 2021. 10.1007/s11244-021-01468-3
The selective transformation of 1-alkenes into E-olefins is a long-standing challenge in olefin metathesis. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations predict high E-selectivity for catalysts incorporating a bidentate, dianionic thio-indolate ligand within a RuXX’(NHC)(py)(= CHR) platform (NHC = N-heterocyclic carbene; py = pyridine). Such complexes are predicted to yield E-olefins by favoring anti-disposed substituents in the transition state expected to be rate-determining: specifically, that for cycloreversion of the metallacyclobutane intermediate. Three pyridine-stabilized catalysts Ru21a-c were synthesized, in which the thio-indolate ligand bears a H, Me, or Ph substituent at the C2 position, and the NHC ligand is the unsaturated imidazoline-2-ylidene Me2IMes (which bears N-mesityl groups and methyl groups on the C4,5 backbone). Single-crystal X-ray diffraction analysis of Ru21c confirms the ligand orientation required for E-selective metathesis, with the thio-indolate sulfur atom binding cis to the NHC, and the indolate nitrogen atom trans to the NHC. However, whereas the new complexes mediated metathetic exchange of their 2-thienylmethylidene ligand in the presence of the common metathesis substrates styrene and allylbenzene, no corresponding self-metathesis products were obtained. Only small amounts of 2-butene (73% (Z)-2-butene) were obtained in self-metathesis of propene using Ru21a. Detailed DFT analysis of this process revealed that product release is surprisingly slow, limiting the reaction rate and explaining the low metathesis activity. With the barrier to dissociation of (Z)-2-butene being lower than that of (E)-2-butene, the calculations also account for the observed Z-selectivity of Ru21a. These findings provide guidelines for catalyst redesign in pursuit of the ambitious goal of E-selective 1-alkene metathesis.