Lewis acid catalyzed heavy atom tunneling – the case of 1H-bicyclo[3.1.0]-hexa-3,5-dien-2-one†
For many thermal reactions, the effects of catalysis or the influence of solvents on reaction rates can be rationalized by simple transition state models. This is not the case for reactions controlled by quantum tunneling, which do not proceed via transition states, and therefore lack the simple concept of transition state stabilization. 1H-Bicyclo[3.1.0]-hexa-3,5-dien-2-one is a highly strained cyclopropene that rearranges to 4-oxocyclohexa-2,5-dienylidene via heavy-atom tunneling. H2O, CF3I, or BF3 form Lewis acid–base complexes with both reactant and product, and the influence of these intermolecular complexes on the tunneling rates for this rearrangement was studied. The tunneling rate increases by a factor of 11 for the H2O complex, by 23 for the CF3I complex, and is too fast to be measured for the BF3 complex. These observations agree with quantum chemical calculations predicting a decrease in both barrier height and barrier width upon complexation with Lewis acids, resulting in the observed Lewis acid catalysis of the tunneling rearrangement.