Nitrenium ions and trivalent boron ligands as analogues of N-heterocyclic carbenes in olefin metathesis: a computational study
We used the density functional theory to evaluate the suitability of nitrenium ions and trivalent boron ligands as analogues of N-heterocyclic carbenes in ruthenium-based metathesis catalysts. We demonstrate that these analogues induce only minor structural changes in Hoveyda–Grubbs-like precatalysts, but have major impact on precatalyst initiation. Nitrenium ion-modified precatalysts are characterized by a weak Ru–N bond resulting in a relatively strong Ru–O bond and large free energy barriers for initiation, making them good candidates for efficient latent Ru-based catalysts. On the other hand the trivalent boron ligand, bearing a formal −1 charge, binds strongly to the ruthenium ion, weakening the Ru–O bond and facilitating its dissociation, to promote fast reaction initiation. We show that the calculated bond dissociation energy of the Ru–C/N/B bond may serve as an accurate indicator of the Ru–O bond strength and the rate of metathesis initiation.