Benefit of a hemilabile ligand in deoxygenation of fatty acids to 1-alkenes†
One of the most important tasks for chemistry in our time is to contribute to sustainable chemical production. A green industrial process for linear α-olefins, the arguably most important class of petrochemical intermediates, from renewable resources would be a major contribution to this end. Plant oils are attractive renewable feedstocks for this purpose because their triglycerides can be hydrolyzed to fatty acids that contain valuable long-chain hydrocarbons (C16–C22). These hydrocarbons may, in turn, be converted to α-olefins by the deoxygenation of the fatty acids. For the most selective of these deoxygenation reactions, transition-metal catalyzed decarbonylative dehydration, the density functional theory (DFT) calculations have just started to offer valuable mechanistic insight, and the use of this insight in rational catalyst design has been facilitated by the arrival of the first well-defined precatalyst for this reaction, Pd(cinnamyl)Cl(DPEphos) (1). Here, we present DFT calculations showing how, in 1, the hemilability of DPEphos, a classical P–O–P diphosphine, contributes to a low overall barrier and high α-selectivity. DPEphos facilitates decarbonylation by first switching from bidentate to monodentate binding to create a coordination site for CO. The recoordination of the dangling phosphine displaces the Pd-bound CO, a co-product that must leave the reactor for the reaction to proceed, and the escaping CO is here modelled using a low pressure in the calculation of its thermochemical corrections. Finally, the role of the hemilabile ligand suggests that further improvements in the decarbonylative dehydration of fatty acids to α-olefins might be achieved by exploring new, potentially asymmetric, hemilabile ligands.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Mechanistic processes in organometallic chemistry