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Unusual C–C Bond Cleavage in the Formation of Amine-Bis(phenoxy) Group 4 Benzyl Complexes: Mechanism of Formation and Application to Stereospecific Polymerization

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posted on 2014-08-11, 00:00 authored by Ravikumar R. Gowda, Lucia Caporaso, Luigi Cavallo, Eugene Y.-X. Chen
Group 4 tetrabenzyl compounds MBn4 (M = Zr, Ti), upon protonolysis with an equimolar amount of the tetradentate amine-tris­(phenol) ligand N­[(2,4-tBu2C6H2(CH2)­OH]3 in toluene from −30 to 25 °C, unexpectedly lead to amine-bis­(phenoxy) dibenzyl complexes, BnCH2N­[(2,4-tBu2C6H2(CH2)­O]2MBn2 (M = Zr (1), Ti (2)) in 80% (1) and 75% (2) yields. This reaction involves an apparent cleavage of the >NCH2–ArOH bond (loss of the phenol in the ligand) and formation of the >NCH2–CH2Bn bond (gain of the benzyl group in the ligand). Structural characterization of 1 by X-ray diffraction analysis confirms that the complex formed is a bis­(benzyl) complex of Zr coordinated by a newly derived tridentate amine-bis­(phenoxy) ligand arranged in a mer configuration in the solid state. The abstractive activation of 1 and 2 with B­(C6F5)3·THF in CD2Cl2 at room temperature generates the corresponding benzyl cations {BnCH2N­[(2,4-tBu2C6H2(CH2)­O]2MBn­(THF)}+[BnB­(C6F5)3] (M = Zr (3), Ti, (4)). These cationic complexes, along with their analogues derived from (imino)­phenoxy tri- and dibenzyl complexes, [(2,6-iPr2C6H3)­NC­(3,5-tBu2C6H2)­O]­ZrBn3 (5) and [2,4-Br2C6H2(O)­(6-CH2(NC5H9))­CH2NCH­(2-adamantyl-4-MeC6H2O)]­ZrBn2 (6), have been found to effectively polymerize the biomass-derived renewable β-methyl-α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone (βMMBL) at room temperature into the highly stereoregular polymer PβMMBL with an isotacticity up to 99% mm. A combined experimental and DFT study has yielded a mechanistic pathway for the observed unusual C–C bond cleavage in the present protonolysis reaction between ZrBn4 and N­[(2,4-tBu2C6H2(CH2)­OH]3 for the formation of complex 1, which involves the benzyl radical and the Zr­(III) species, resulting from thermal and photochemical decomposition of ZrBn4, followed by a series of reaction sequences consisting of protonolysis, tautomerization, H-transfer, oxidation, elimination, and radical coupling.

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