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Bonding and Structure of Copper Nitrenes

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journal contribution
posted on 03.11.2008, 00:00 by Thomas R. Cundari, Adriana Dinescu, Abul B. Kazi
Copper nitrenes are of interest as intermediates in the catalytic aziridination of olefins and the amination of C−H bonds. However, despite advances in the isolation and study of late-transition-metal multiply bonded complexes, a bona fide structurally characterized example of a terminal copper nitrene has, to our knowledge, not been reported. In anticipation of such a report, terminal copper nitrenes are studied from a computational perspective. The nitrene complexes studied here are of the form (β-diketiminate)Cu(NPh). Density functional theory (DFT), complete active space self-consistent-field (CASSCF) electronic structure techniques, and hybrid quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) methods are employed to study such species. While DFT methods indicate that a triplet (S = 1) is the ground state, CASSCF calculations indicate that a singlet (S = 0) is the ground state, with only a small energy gap between the singlet and triplet. Moreover, the ground-state (open-shell) singlet copper nitrene is found to be highly multiconfigurational (i.e., biradical) and to possess a bent geometry about the nitrene nitrogen, contrasting with the linear nitrene geometry of the triplet copper nitrenes. CASSCF calculations also reveal the existence of a closed-shell singlet state with some degree of multiple bonding character for the copper−nitrene bond.