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Deeper Mechanistic Insight into Ru Pincer-Mediated Acceptorless Dehydrogenative Coupling of Alcohols: Exchanges, Intermediates, and Deactivation Species

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posted on 2018-04-17, 00:00 authored by Duc Hanh Nguyen, Xavier Trivelli, Frédéric Capet, Youssef Swesi, Alain Favre-Réguillon, Laurent Vanoye, Franck Dumeignil, Régis M. Gauvin
The mechanism of acceptorless dehydrogenative coupling reaction (ADC) of alcohols to esters catalyzed by aliphatic pincer PHNP ruthenium complexes was experimentally studied. Relevant intermediate species involved in the catalytic cycle were isolated and structurally characterized by single-crystal X-ray diffraction studies, and their reactivity (including toward substrates related to the catalytic process) was probed. VT NMR studies unveiled several chemical exchanges connecting the Ru amido hydride, the Ru alkoxide, and the alcohol substrate. Under catalytic conditions, in situ IR spectroscopy monitoring demonstrated the production of ester via aldehyde as intermediate. A Tishchenko-like pathway is proposed as the main path for the production of ester from aldehyde, involving alkoxide and hemiacetaloxide Ru species (the latter being identified in the reaction mixture by NMR). Catalytic system deactivation under base-free conditions was found to be related to water traces in the reaction medium (either as impurity or derived from aldol reactions) that lead to the formation of catalytically inactive acetato Ru complexes. These react with alkali metal alkoxides to afford catalytically active Ru species. In line with this observation, running the ADC reaction in the presence of water scavengers or alkoxides allows maintaining sustained catalytic activity.