Inorganic Chemistry, Vol.56, No.15, 9264-9272, 2017
Methane Activations by Titanium Neopentylidene Complexes: Electronic Resilience and Steric Control
The titanium neopentylidene complex (PNP)Ti=-(CHBu)-Bu-t((CH2Bu)-Bu-t) (PNP = N[2-(PPr2)-Pr-i-4-methylphenyl](2-)) is capable of activating both sp(2) and sp(3) C-H bonds under mild conditions. In addition to methane C-H activation, competition between the initial hydrogen abstraction reaction to form the methane activation product and the tautomerization reaction of this product to form a terminal methylidene was also explored. Several modifications of the PNP and (CHBu)-Bu-t ligands were explored to determine the effect of these changes on C-H bond activation. In general, on the one hand, the modifications involving electronic effects have small and inconsistent influence on the stability of the intermediates and products and on the reaction barriers. On the other hand, the use of bulky groups in the ligands favors the methane activation process. By replacing the Pr-i groups in the PNP ligand with Bu-t groups, both methane activation and tautomerization reactions become more energetically favorable than in the unmodified complex. On the one hand, the largest acceleration of the methane C-H activation occurs when Bu-t groups in the phosphine are combined with an extra CH2 linker between the aromatic ring and the phosphine. On the other hand, replacing the nitrogen in the PNP ligand by phosphorus results in lower barriers for the tautomerization reaction and the stabilization of the product of the tautomerization although it remains slightly less stable than product of methane C-H activation. While several ligand modifications related to the electronic effects were examined, it is interesting that most of them did not make a significant change on the barriers for either reaction, indicating a significant resilience of this titanium complex, which could be used to enhance the practical aspects of the complex without a significant loss of its activity.