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Kinetic and Mechanistic Examination of Acid–Base Bifunctional Aminosilica Catalysts in Aldol and Nitroaldol Condensations

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journal contribution
posted on 18.12.2015, 15:41 by Virginia E. Collier, Nathan C. Ellebracht, George I. Lindy, Eric G. Moschetta, Christopher W. Jones
The kinetic and mechanistic understanding of cooperatively catalyzed aldol and nitroaldol condensations is probed using a series of mesoporous silicas functionalized with aminosilanes to provide bifunctional acid–base character. Mechanistically, a Hammett analysis is performed to determine the effects of electron-donating and electron-withdrawing groups of para-substituted benzaldehyde derivatives on the catalytic activity of each condensation reaction. This information is also used to discuss the validity of previously proposed catalytic mechanisms and to propose a revised mechanism with plausible reaction intermediates. For both reactions, electron-withdrawing groups increase the observed rates of reaction, though resonance effects play an important, yet subtle, role in the nitroaldol condensation, in which a p-methoxy electron-donating group is also able to stabilize the proposed carbocation intermediate. Additionally, activation energies and pre-exponential factors are calculated via the Arrhenius analysis of two catalysts with similar amine loadings: one catalyst had silanols available for cooperative interactions (acid–base catalysis), while the other was treated with a silanol-capping reagent to prevent such cooperativity (base-only catalysis). The values obtained for activation energies and pre-exponential factors in each reaction are discussed in the context of the proposed mechanisms and the importance of cooperative interactions in each reaction. The catalytic activity decreases for all reactions when the silanols are capped with trimethylsilyl groups, and higher temperatures are required to make accurate rate measurements, emphasizing the vital role the weakly acidic silanols play in the catalytic cycles. The results indicate that loss of acid sites is more detrimental to the catalytic activity of the aldol condensation than the nitroaldol condensation, as evidenced by the significant decrease in the pre-exponential factor for the aldol condensation when silanols are unavailable for cooperative interactions. Cooperative catalysis is evidenced by significant changes in the pre-exponential factor, rather than the activation energy for the aldol condensation.