Apparent Anti-Woodward–Hoffmann Addition to a Nickel Bis(dithiolene) Complex: The Reaction Mechanism Involves Reduced, Dimetallic Intermediates Academic Article uri icon


  • Nickel dithiolene complexes have been proposed as electrocatalysts for alkene purification. Recent studies of the ligand-based reactions of Ni(tfd)2 (tfd = S2C2(CF3)2) and its anion [Ni(tfd)2](-) with alkenes (ethylene and 1-hexene) showed that in the absence of the anion, the reaction proceeds most rapidly to form the intraligand adduct, which decomposes by releasing a substituted dihydrodithiin. However, the presence of the anion increases the rate of formation of the stable cis-interligand adduct, and decreases the rate of dihydrodithiin formation and decomposition. In spite of both computational and experimental studies, the mechanism, especially the role of the anion, remained somewhat elusive. We are now providing a combined experimental and computational study that addresses the mechanism and explains the role of the anion. A kinetic study (global analysis) for the reaction of 1-hexene is reported, which supports the following mechanism: (1) reversible intraligand addition, (2) oxidation of the intraligand addition product prior to decomposition, and (3) interligand adduct formation catalyzed by Ni(tfd)2(-). Density functional theory (DFT) calculations were performed on the Ni(tfd)2/Ni(tfd)2(-)/ethylene system to shed light on the selectivity of adduct formation in the absence of anion and on the mechanism in which Ni(tfd)2(-) shifts the reaction from intraligand addition to interligand addition. Computational results show that in the neutral system the free energy of activation for intraligand addition is lower than that for interligand addition, in agreement with the experimental results. The computations predict that the anion enhances the rate of the cis-interligand adduct formation by forming a dimetallic complex with the neutral complex. The [(Ni(tfd)2)2](-) dimetallic complex then coordinates ethylene and isomerizes to form a Ni,S-bound ethylene complex, which then rapidly isomerizes to the stable interligand adduct but not to the intraligand adduct. Thus, the anion catalyzes the formation of the interligand adduct. Significant experimental evidence for dimetallic species derived from nickel bis(dithiolene) complexes has been found. ESI-MS data indicate the presence of a [(Ni(tfd)2)2](-) dimetallic complex as the acetonitrile adduct. A charge-neutral association complex of Ni(tfd)2 with the ethylene adduct of Ni(tfd)2 has been crystallographically characterized. Despite the small driving force for the reversible association, very major structural reorganization (square-planar → octahedral) occurs.

author list (cited authors)

  • Dang, L. i., Shibl, M. F., Yang, X., Harrison, D. J., Alak, A., Lough, A. J., ... Hall, M. B.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013 11:11 AM