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Acc Chem Res. 2008 Feb;41(2):201-13. doi: 10.1021/ar700129q. Epub 2008 Jan 23.

Modularly designed transition metal PNP and PCP pincer complexes based on aminophosphines: synthesis and catalytic applications.

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Institute of Applied Synthetic Chemistry, Vienna University of Technology, Getreidemarkt 9, A-1060 Vienna, Austria.


Transition metal complexes are indispensable tools for any synthetic chemist. Ideally, any metal-mediated process should be fast, clean, efficient, and selective and take place in a catalytic manner. These criteria are especially important considering that many of the transition metals employed in catalysis are rare and expensive. One of the ways of modifying and controlling the properties of transition metal complexes is the use of appropriate ligand systems, such as pincer ligands. Usually consisting of a central aromatic backbone tethered to two two-electron donor groups by different spacers, this class of tridentate ligands have found numerous applications in various areas of chemistry, including catalysis, due to their combination of stability, activity, and variability. As we focused on pincer ligands featuring phosphines as donor groups, the lack of a general method for the preparation of both neutral (PNP) and anionic (PCP) pincer ligands using similar precursor compounds as well as the difficulty of introducing chirality into the structure of pincer ligands prompted us to investigate the use of amines as spacers between the aromatic ring and the phosphines. By introduction of aminophosphine and phosphoramidite moieties into their structure, the synthesis of both PNP and PCP ligands can be achieved via condensation reactions between aromatic diamines and electrophilic chlorophosphines (or chlorophosphites). Moreover, chiral pincer complexes can be easily obtained by using building blocks obtained from the chiral pool. Thus, we have developed a modular synthetic strategy with which the steric, electronic, and stereochemical properties of the ligands can be varied systematically. With the ligands in hand, we studied their reactivity towards different transition metal precursors, such as molybdenum, ruthenium, iron, nickel, palladium, and platinum. This has resulted in the preparation of a range of new pincer complexes, including various iron complexes, as well as the first heptacoordinated molybdenum pincer complexes and several pentacoordinated nickel complexes by using a controlled ligand decomposition pathway. In addition, we have investigated the use of some of the complexes as catalysts in different C-C coupling reactions: for example, the palladium PNP and PCP pincer complexes can be employed as catalysts in the well known Suzuki-Miyaura coupling, while the iron PNP complexes catalyze the coupling of aromatic aldehydes with ethyl diazoacetate under very mild reaction conditions to give selectively 3-hydroxyacrylates, which are otherwise difficult to prepare. While this Account presents an overview of current research on the chemistry of P-N bond containing pincer ligands and complexes, we believe that further investigations will give deeper insights into the reactivity and applicability of aminophosphine-based pincer complexes.

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