A unique hydrido phosphine–borane iron(II) complex [(dppa)(Ph2P–N–P(BH3)Ph2)Fe(H)] (1) was obtained by the reaction of iron(II) chloride and two equivalents of bis(diphenylphosphino)amine (dppa) with an excess of sodium borohydride in acetonitrile–ethanol mixtures. Detailed investigations of the reaction revealed that a mixture of cis- and trans-[(dppa)2Fe(NCMe)2]2+ is formed prior to the reduction by sodium borohydride. Depending on the solvent, different products were obtained by the reduction: in acetonitrile–ethanol mixtures the hydrido phosphine–borane complex 1 is formed by formal insertion of BH3, while the reduction in pure acetonitrile results in the formation of the cationic complex trans-[(dppa)2Fe(H)(NCMe)](BH4) (4). Complex 4 is remarkably stable in ethanol and does not undergo phosphine–borane formation, even in the presence of excess sodium borohydride. This observation suggests that the phosphine–borane complex is generated by the reaction with the first equivalent of sodium borohydride with the participation of ethanol, followed by deprotonation or dihydrogen elimination. Experiments with similar diphosphine ligands, such as bis(diphenylphosphino)methane, did not yield a phosphine–borane complex, indicating the crucial role of the amine group in the observed reactivity.
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