Effect of CO on the oxidative addition of arene C-H bonds by cationic rhodium complexes

Michael Montag, Irena Efremenko, Revital Cohen, Linda J.W. Shimon, Gregory Leitus, Yael Diskin-Posner, Yehoshoa Ben-David, Hiyam Salem, Jan M.L. Martin, David Milstein

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Sequential addition of CO molecules to cationic aryl-hydrido Rh III complexes of phosphine-based (PCP) pincer ligands was found to lead first to C-H reductive elimination and then to C-H oxidative addition, thereby demonstrating a dual role of CO. DFT calculations indicate that the oxidative addition reaction is directly promoted by CO, in contrast to the commonly accepted view that CO hinders such reactions. This intriguing effect was traced to repulsive JT interactions along the aryl-Rh-CO axis, which are augmented by the initially added CO ligand (due to antibonding interactions between occupied Rh dπ orbitals and occupied π orbitals of both CO and the arene moiety), but counteracted by the second CO ligand (due to significant π back-donation). These repulsive interactions were themselves linked to significant weakening of the π-acceptor character of CO in the positively charged rhodium complexes, which is concurrent with an enhanced o-donating capability. Replacement of the phosphine ligands by an analogous phosphinite-based (POCOP) pincer ligand led to significant changes in reactivity, whereby addition of CO did not result in C-H reductive elimina-tion, but yielded relatively stable mono- and dicarbonyl aryl-hydrido POCOP-Rh III complexes. DFT calculations showed that the stability of these complexes arises from the higher electrophilicity of the POCOP ligand, relative to PCP, which leads to partial reduction of the excessive π-electron density along the aryl-Rh-CO axis. Finally, comparison between the effects of CO and acetonitrile on C-H oxidative addition revealed that they exhibit similar reactivity, despite their markedly different electronic properties. However, DFT calculations indicate that the two ligands operate by different mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-353
Number of pages26
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 4 2010


  • C-H activation
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Density functional calculations
  • Oxidative addition
  • Rhodium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Organic Chemistry

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