Monomethylaluminum and dimethylaluminum pyrrolylaldiminates for the ring-opening polymerization of rac-lactide: effects of ligand structure and coordination geometry†
Two series of aluminum alkyl complexes supported by pyrrolylaldiminate ligands, LAlMe2 (1a–7a) and L2AlMe (1b–7b), were successfully synthesized and characterized by NMR spectroscopy and elemental analysis. Reactions of trimethylaluminum with the corresponding pyrrolylaldiminate ligands in the molar ratios of 1 : 1 and 1 : 2 yielded dimethylaluminum pyrrolylaldiminates (1a–7a) and monomethylaluminum pyrrolylaldiminates (1b–7b), respectively, in good yields. The structure of 3b, determined by single-crystal X-ray diffraction, displayed a distorted trigonal bipyramidal geometry with the τ value of 0.65. Upon addition of 1 equivalent of benzyl alcohol, all complexes promoted the living ring-opening polymerization of rac-lactide with a good control over molecular weights and polydispersities. Complexes 6a and 7a were found to efficiently mediate the immortal polymerization in the presence of excess equivalents of benzyl alcohol (up to 5 equivalents), as evidenced by the narrow PDI values and the good agreement between the experimental Mn values and monomer/benzyl alcohol ratios. The steric and electronic effects of the imine nitrogen substituents had a strong influence on the polymerization activities both in catalytic activity and polymer microstructure. The catalytic activity decreased as follows: 4-Me-C6H4 (3) > C6H5 (1) ≈ 4-F-C6H4 (2) ≈ 2-Me-C6H4 (5) > 4-OMe-C6H4 (4) ≫ 2-tBu-C6H4 (6) > adamantyl (7). In comparison, the catalytic activity of the monomethylaluminum complex is slightly higher than that of the dimethylaluminum counterpart. The polymerization of rac-lactide by 6b yielded heterotactically enriched polylactide (Pr = 0.60) whereas the isotactic-enriched polymer (Pm = 0.74) was obtained from 7b.