Epimerization of Cyclic Vinylphosphirane Complexes:  The Intermediacy of Biradicals

The phosphinidene complex Ph−P−W(CO)5 reacts with cyclopentadiene, 1,3-cyclohexadiene, 1,3-cycloheptadiene, and 1,3-cyclooctadiene to give in each case isomeric mixtures of syn- and anti-vinylphosphiranes. With longer reaction times and/or higher reaction temperatures, the anti adducts isomerize to the syn adducts. These epimerizations are likely to proceed via biradical intermediates. Only the syn-vinylphosphirane of 1,3-cyclohexadiene undergoes a [1,3]-sigmatropic shift to yield a syn-phopholene. The dichotomy of biradical and concerted mechanisms is discussed in relationship with the analogous mechanism for the vinylcyclopropane → cyclopentene rearrangement.