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Roles of Iron Complexes in Catalytic Radical Alkene Cross-Coupling: A Computational and Mechanistic Study

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posted on 25.04.2019, 21:31 by Dongyoung Kim, S. M. Wahidur Rahaman, Brandon Q. Mercado, Rinaldo Poli, Patrick L. Holland
A growing and useful class of alkene coupling reactions involve hydrogen atom transfer (HAT) from a metal-hydride species to an alkene to form a free radical, which is responsible for subsequent bond formation. Here, we use a combination of experimental and computational investigations to map out the mechanistic details of iron-catalyzed reductive alkene cross-coupling, an important representative of the HAT alkene reactions. We are able to explain several observations that were previously mysterious. First, the rate-limiting step in the catalytic cycle is the formation of the reactive Fe–H intermediate, elucidating the importance of the choice of reductant. Second, the success of the catalytic system is attributable to the exceptionally weak (17 kcal/mol) Fe–H bond, which performs irreversible HAT to alkenes in contrast to previous studies on isolable hydride complexes where this addition was reversible. Third, the organic radical intermediates can reversibly form organometallic species, which helps to protect the free radicals from side reactions. Fourth, the previously accepted quenching of the postcoupling radical through stepwise electron transfer/proton transfer is not as favorable as alternative mechanisms. We find that there are two feasible pathways. One uses concerted proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) from an iron­(II) ethanol complex, which is facilitated because the O–H bond dissociation free energy is lowered by 30 kcal/mol upon metal binding. In an alternative pathway, an O-bound enolate-iron­(III) complex undergoes proton shuttling from an iron-bound alcohol. These kinetic, spectroscopic, and computational studies identify key organometallic species and PCET steps that control selectivity and reactivity in metal-catalyzed HAT alkene coupling, and create a firm basis for elucidation of mechanisms in the growing class of HAT alkene cross-coupling reactions.