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Title: Reaction Mechanism Underlying Pd(II)-Catalyzed Oxidative Coupling of Ethylene and Benzene to Form Styrene: Identification of a Cyclic Mono-Pd II Bis-Cu II Complex as the Active Catalyst
A recent advance in the synthesis of alkenylated arenes was the demonstration that the Pd(OAc)2 catalyst precursor gives >95% selectivity toward styrene from ethylene and benzene under optimized conditions using excess Cu(II) carboxylate as the in situ oxidant [ Organometallics 2019, 38(19), 3532−3541]. To understand the mechanism underlying this catalysis, we applied density functional theory (DFT) calculations in combination with experimental studies. From DFT calculations, we determined the lowest-energy multimetallic Pd and Pd–Cu mixed metal species as possible catalyst precursors. From the various structures, we determined the cyclic heterotrinuclear complex PdCu2(μ-OAc)6 to be the global minimum in Gibbs free energy under conditions of excess Cu(II). For cyclic PdCu2(μ-OAc)6 and the parent [Pd(μ-OAc)2]3, we evaluated the barriers for benzene C–H activation through concerted metalation deprotonation (CMD). The PdCu2(μ-OAc)6 cyclic trimer leads to a CMD barrier of 33.5 kcal/mol, while the [Pd(μ-OAc)2]3 species leads to a larger CMD barrier at >35 kcal/mol. This decrease in the CMD barrier arises from the insertion of Cu(II) into the trimetallic species. Because cyclic PdCu2(μ-OAc)6 is likely the predominant species under experimental conditions (the Cu to Pd ratio is 480:1 at the start of catalysis) with a predicted CMD barrier within the range of the experimentally more » determined activation barrier, we propose that cyclic PdCu2(μ-OAc)6 is the Pd species responsible for catalysis and report a full reaction mechanism based on DFT calculations. For catalytic conversion of benzene and ethylene to styrene at 120 °C using Pd(OAc)2 as the catalyst precursor and Cu(OPiv)2 (OPiv = pivalate) as the oxidant, an induction period of ∼1 h was observed, followed by catalysis with a turnover frequency of ∼2.3 × 10–3 s–1. In situ1H NMR spectroscopy experiments indicate that during the induction period, Pd(OAc)2 is likely converted to cyclic PdCu2(η2-C2H4)3(μ-OPiv)6, which is consistent with the calculations and consistent with the proposal that the active catalyst is the ethylene-coordinated heterotrinuclear complex cyclic PdCu2(η2-C2H4)3(μ-OPiv)6. « less
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