Rhodium(I) catalyzed [2+2+2] cycloaddition reactions: experimental and theoretical studies

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The [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction involves the formation of three carbon-carbon bonds in one single step using alkynes, alkenes, nitriles, carbonyls and other unsaturated reagents as reactants. This is one of the most elegant methods for the construction of polycyclic aromatic compounds and heteroaromatic, which have important academic and industrial uses. The thesis is divided into ten chapters including six related publications. The first study based on the Wilkinson’s catalyst, RhCl(PPh3)3, compares the reaction mechanism of the [2+2+2] cycloaddition process of acetylene with the cycloaddition obtained for the model of the complex, RhCl(PH3)3. In an attempt to reduce computational costs in DFT studies, this research project aimed to substitute PPh3 ligands for PH3, despite the electronic and steric effects produced by PPh3 ligands being significantly different to those created by PH3 ones. In this first study, detailed theoretical calculations were performed to determine the reaction mechanism of the two complexes. Despite some differences being detected, it was found that modelling PPh3 by PH3 in the catalyst helps to reduce the computational cost significantly while at the same time providing qualitatively acceptable results. Taking into account the results obtained in this earlier study, the model of the Wilkinson’s catalyst, RhCl(PH3)3, was applied to study different [2+2+2] cycloaddition reactions with unsaturated systems conducted in the laboratory. Our research group found that in the case of totally closed systems, specifically 15- and 25-membered azamacrocycles can afford benzenic compounds, except in the case of 20-membered azamacrocycle (20-MAA) which was inactive with the Wilkinson’s catalyst. In this study, theoretical calculations allowed to determine the origin of the different reactivity of the 20-MAA, where it was found that the activation barrier of the oxidative addition of two alkynes is higher than those obtained for the 15- and 25-membered macrocycles. This barrier was attributed primarily to the interaction energy, which corresponds to the energy that is released when the two deformed reagents interact in the transition state. The main factor that helped to provide an explanation to the different reactivity observed was that the 20-MAA had a more stable and delocalized HOMO orbital in the oxidative addition step. Moreover, we observed that the formation of a strained ten-membered ring during the cycloaddition of 20-MAA presents significant steric hindrance. Furthermore, in Chapter 5, an electrochemical study is presented in collaboration with Prof. Anny Jutand from Paris. This work allowed studying the main steps of the catalytic cycle of the [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction between diynes with a monoalkyne. First kinetic data were obtained of the [2+2+2] cycloaddition process catalyzed by the Wilkinson’s catalyst, where it was observed that the rate-determining step of the reaction can change depending on the structure of the starting reagents. In the case of the [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction involving two alkynes and one alkene in the same molecule (enediynes), it is well known that the oxidative coupling may occur between two alkynes giving the corresponding metallacyclopentadiene, or between one alkyne and the alkene affording the metallacyclopentene complex. Wilkinson’s model was used in DFT calculations to analyze the different factors that may influence in the reaction mechanism. Here it was observed that the cyclic enediynes always prefer the oxidative coupling between two alkynes moieties, while the acyclic cases have different preferences depending on the linker and the substituents used in the alkynes. Moreover, the Wilkinson’s model was used to explain the experimental results achieved in Chapter 7 where the [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction of enediynes is studied varying the position of the double bond in the starting reagent. It was observed that enediynes type yne-ene-yne preferred the standard [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction, while enediynes type yne-yne-ene suffered β-hydride elimination followed a reductive elimination of Wilkinson’s catalyst giving cyclohexadiene compounds, which are isomers from those that would be obtained through standard [2+2+2] cycloaddition reactions. Finally, the last chapter of this thesis is based on the use of DFT calculations to determine the reaction mechanism when the macrocycles are treated with transition metals that are inactive to the [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction, but which are thermally active leading to new polycyclic compounds. Thus, a domino process was described combining an ene reaction and a Diels-Alder cycloaddition. ​
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