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π‑Bond Character in Metal–Alkyl Compounds for C–H Activation: How, When, and Why?

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journal contribution
posted on 10.12.2018, 00:00 by Christopher P. Gordon, Damien B. Culver, Matthew P. Conley, Odile Eisenstein, Richard A. Andersen, Christophe Copéret
C–H bond activation via σ-bond metathesis is typically observed with transition-metal alkyl compounds in d0 or d0fn electron configurations, e.g., biscyclopentadienyl metal alkyls. Related C–H activation processes are also observed for transition-metal alkyls with higher d-electron counts, such as W­(II), Fe­(II), or Ir­(III). A σ-bond metathesis mechanism has been proposed in all cases with a preference for an oxidative addition–reductive elimination pathway for Ir­(III). Herein we show that, regardless of the exact mechanism, C–H activation with all of these compounds is associated with π-character of the M–C bond, according to a detailed analysis of the 13C NMR chemical shift tensor of the α-carbon. π-Character is also a requirement for olefin insertion, indicating its similarity to σ-bond metathesis. This observation explains the H2 response observed in d0 olefin polymerization catalysts and underlines that σ-bond metathesis, olefin insertion, and olefin metathesis are in fact isolobal reactions.