Mechanistic aspects of the copolymerization reaction of carbon dioxide and epoxides, using a chiral salen chromium chloride catalyst. Academic Article uri icon


  • The air-stable, chiral (salen)Cr(III)Cl complex (3), where H(2)salen = N,N'-bis(3,5-di-tert-butyl-salicylidene)-1,2-cyclohexene diamine, has been shown to be an effective catalyst for the coupling of cyclohexene oxide and carbon dioxide to afford poly(cyclohexenylene carbonate), along with a small quantity of its trans-cyclic carbonate. The thus produced polycarbonate contained >99% carbonate linkages and had a M(n) value of 8900 g/mol with a polydispersity index of 1.2 as determined by gel permeation chromatography. The turnover number (TON) and turnover frequency (TOF) values of 683 g of polym/g of Cr and 28.5 g of polym/g of Cr/h, respectively for reactions carried out at 80 degrees C and 58.5 bar pressure increased by over 3-fold upon addition of 5 equiv of the Lewis base cocatalyst, N-methyl imidazole. Although this chiral catalyst is well documented for the asymmetric ring-opening (ARO) of epoxides, in this instance the copolymer produced was completely atactic as illustrated by (13)C NMR spectroscopy. Whereas the mechanism for the (salen)Cr(III)-catalyzed ARO of epoxides displays a squared dependence on [catalyst], which presumably is true for the initiation step of the copolymerization reaction, the rate of carbonate chain growth leading to copolymer or cyclic carbonate formation is linearly dependent on [catalyst]. This was demonstrated herein by way of in situ measurements at 80 degrees C and 58.5 bar pressure. Hence, an alternative mechanism for copolymer production is operative, which is suggested to involve a concerted attack of epoxide at the axial site of the chromium(III) complex where the growing polymer chain for epoxide ring-opening resides. Preliminary investigations of this (salen)Cr(III)-catalyzed system for the coupling of propylene oxide and carbon dioxide reveal that although cyclic carbonate is the main product provided at elevated temperatures, at ambient temperature polycarbonate formation is dominant. A common reaction pathway for alicyclic (cyclohexene oxide) and aliphatic (propylene oxide) carbon dioxide coupling is thought to be in effect, where in the latter instance cyclic carbonate production has a greater temperature dependence compared to copolymer formation.

author list (cited authors)

  • Darensbourg, D. J., & Yarbrough, J. C

complete list of authors

  • Darensbourg, Donald J||Yarbrough, Jason C

publication date

  • January 1, 2002 11:11 AM