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Mechanistic Studies of Ethylene and α-Olefin Co-Oligomerization Catalyzed by Chromium–PNP Complexes

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journal contribution
posted on 23.07.2012, 00:00 by Loi H. Do, Jay A. Labinger, John E. Bercaw
To explore the possibility of producing a narrow distribution of mid- to long-chain hydrocarbons from ethylene as a chemical feedstock, co-oligomerization of ethylene and linear α-olefins (LAOs) was investigated, using a previously reported chromium complex, [CrCl3(PNPOMe)] (1, where PNPOMe = N,N-bis­(bis­(o-methoxyphenyl)­phosphino)­methylamine). Activation of 1 by treatment with modified methylaluminoxane (MMAO) in the presence of ethylene and 1-hexene afforded mostly C6 and C10 alkene products. The identities of the C10 isomers, assigned by detailed gas chromatographic and mass spectrometric analyses, strongly support a mechanism that involves five- and seven-membered metallacyclic intermediates comprised of ethylene and LAO units. Using 1-heptene as a mechanistic probe, it was established that 1-hexene formation from ethylene is competitive with formation of ethylene/LAO cotrimers and that cotrimers derived from one ethylene and two LAO molecules are also generated. Complex 1/MMAO is also capable of converting 1-hexene to C12 dimers and C18 trimers, albeit with poor efficiency. The mechanistic implications of these studies are discussed and compared to previous reports of olefin cotrimerization.