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Insertion and elimination. Peter H.M. Budzelaar. Insertion reactions. If at a metal centre you have a s -bound group (hydride, alkyl, aryl) a ligand containing a p -system (olefin, alkyne, CO) the s -bound group can migrate to the p -system. Insertion in MeMn(CO) 5. agostic.

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insertion and elimination

Insertion and elimination

Peter H.M. Budzelaar

insertion reactions
Insertion reactions

If at a metal centre you have

  • a s-bound group (hydride, alkyl, aryl)
  • a ligand containing a p-system (olefin, alkyne, CO)

the s-bound group can migrate to the p-system.

Insertion and elimination

insertion in memn co 5
Insertion in MeMn(CO)5





CO adduct



Insertion and elimination

insertion reactions4
Insertion reactions

The s-bound group migrates to the p-system.

But if you only see the result, it looks like the p-system has inserted into the M-X bond, hence the name insertion.

To emphasize that it is actually (mostly) the X group that moves, we use the term migratory insertion.

The reverse of insertion is called elimination.

Insertion reduces the electron count, elimination increases it.

Neither insertion nor elimination causesa change in oxidation state.

Insertion and elimination

1 1 insertions
1,1 insertions

In a 1,1-insertion, metal and X group "move" to the same atom of the inserting substrate.

The metal-bound substrate atom increases its valence.

CO, isonitriles (RNC) and SO2 often undergo 1,1-insertion.

Insertion and elimination

insertion of co and isonitriles
Insertion of CO and isonitriles
  • CO insertion is hardly exothermic.
  • An additional ligand may be needed to trap the acyland so drive the reaction to completion.
  • In the absence of added ligands often fast equilibrium.
  • CO insertion in M-H, M-CF3, M-COR endothermic.
    • no CO polymerization.
    • but isonitriles do polymerize!

Insertion and elimination

double co insertion
Double CO insertion ?

Deriving a mechanism from a reaction stoichiometryis not always straightforward.

The following catalytic reaction was reported a few years ago:

This looks like it might involve double CO insertion.

But the actual mechanism is more complicated.

Insertion and elimination

no double co insertion
No double CO insertion !

Insertion and elimination

promoting co insertion
Promoting CO insertion
  • "Bulky" ligands
  • Lewis acids

Coordinate to O, stabilize product

Drawback: usually stoichiometric

Insertion and elimination

sometimes it only looks like insertion
Sometimes it only looks like insertion

Nucleophilic attack at coordinated CO can lead to the same products as standard insertion:

Main difference: nucleophilic attack does not require an empty site.

Insertion and elimination

1 2 insertion of olefins
1,2-insertion of olefins

Insertion of an olefin in a metal-alkyl bond produces a new alkyl.

Thus, the reaction leads to oligomers or polymers of the olefin.

Insertion and elimination

1 2 insertion of olefins12
1,2-insertion of olefins

Insertion of an olefin in a metal-alkyl bond produces a new alkyl.

Thus, the reaction leads to oligomers or polymers of the olefin.

Best known polyolefins:

  • polyethene (polythene)
  • polypropene

In addition, there are many specialty polyolefins.

Polyolefins are among the largest-scale chemical products made.

They are chemically inert.

Their properties can be tuned by the choiceof catalyst and comonomer.

Insertion and elimination

why do olefins polymerize
Why do olefins polymerize ?

Driving force: conversion of a p-bond into a s-bond

  • One C=C bond: 150 kcal/mol
  • Two C-C bonds: 2´85 = 170 kcal/mol
  • Energy release: about 20 kcal per mole of monomer(independent of mechanism!)

Many polymerization mechanisms

  • Radical (ethene, dienes, styrene, acrylates)
  • Cationic (styrene, isobutene)
  • Anionic (styrene, dienes, acrylates)
  • Transition-metal catalyzed (a-olefins, dienes, styrene)

Transition-metal catalysis provides the best opportunitiesfor tuning of reactivity and selectivity

Insertion and elimination

mechanism of olefin insertion
Mechanism of olefin insertion

Standard Cossee mechanism

Green-Rooney variation (a-agostic assistance):

Interaction with an a C-H bond could facilitate tilting of the migrating alkyl group

The "fixed" orientation suggested by this picture is probably incorrect

Insertion and elimination

insertion in m h bonds
Insertion in M-H bonds

Insertion in M-H bonds is nearly always fast and reversible.

Þ Hydrides catalyze olefin isomerization

Regiochemistry corresponds to Markovnikov rule (with Md+-Hd-)

To shift the equilibrium to the insertion product:

  • Electron-withdrawing groups at metal

alkyl more electron-donating than H

  • Early transition metals

M-C stronger (relative to M-H)

  • Alkynes instead of olefins

more energy gain per monomer, both for M-H and M-C insertion

Insertion and elimination

catalyzed olefin isomerization
Catalyzed olefin isomerization

Metals have a preference for primary alkyls.

But substituted olefins are more stable!

In isomerization catalysis, the dominant products and the dominant catalytic species often do not correspond to each other.

For each separately, concentrations at equilibrium reflect thermodynamic stabilities via the Boltzmann distribution.



Insertion and elimination

catalyzed olefin isomerization17
Catalyzed olefin isomerization

Insertion and elimination

m h vs m c insertion
M-H vs M-C insertion

Insertion in M-C bonds is slower than in M-H.

Barrier usually 5-10 kcal/mol higher

Factor 105-1010 in rate !

Reason: shape of orbitals (s vs. sp3)

Insertion and elimination

repeated insertion
Repeated insertion

Multiple insertion leads to dimerization,oligomerization or polymerization.

  • Key factor: kCT / kprop = k
    • k» 1: mainly dimerization
    • k» 0.1-1.0: oligomerization (always mixtures)
    • k « 0.1: polymerization
    • k» 0: "living" polymerization

For non-living polymerization:

Insertion and elimination

schulz flory statistics
Schulz-Flory statistics

k = 0.7

  • Key factor: kCT / kprop = k
    • k» 1: mainly dimerization
    • k» 0.1-1.0: oligomerization (always mixtures)
    • k « 0.1: polymerization
    • k» 0: "living" polymerization

k = 0.1

For non-living polymerization:

k = 0.02

Insertion and elimination

applications of oligomers and polymers
Applications of oligomers and polymers
  • Ethene and propene come directly from crude oil "crackers"
    • Primary petrochemical products, basic chemical feedstocks
  • Dimerization rarely desired
    • Making butene costs $$$ !
  • Oligomers: surfactants, comonomers
    • High added value, but limited market
  • Polymers: plastics, construction materials, foils and films
    • Very large market, bulk products

Insertion and elimination

selective synthesis of trimers etc
Selective synthesis of trimers etc ?
  • 1-Hexene and 1-octene are valuable co-monomers.
  • Selective synthesis of 1-hexene from ethene is not possible using the standard insertion/elimination mechanism.
  • There are a few catalysts that selectively trimerize ethenevia a different mechanism ("metallacycle" mechanism).
    • Redox-active metals (Ti, V, Cr, Ta) required
    • Cr systems are used commercially
  • There are also one or two catalysts that preferentially produce 1-octene. The mechanism has not been firmly established.

Insertion and elimination

trimerization via metallacycles
Trimerization via metallacycles
  • Key issues:
  • Geometrical constraintsprevent b-eliminationin metallacyclopentane.
  • Formation of 9-memberedrings unfavourable.
  • Ligand helps balance (n)and (n+2) oxidation states.

(and others)

Insertion and elimination

co olefin copolymerization
CO/olefin copolymerization
  • CO cheaper than ethene
  • Copolymer more polarthan polyethene
    • much higher melting point
  • Chemically less inert
  • No double CO insertion


  • No double olefin insertion

CO binds more strongly, inserts more quickly

  • Slow b-elimination from alkyl

5-membered ring hinders elimination

M = L2Pd, L2Ni

Insertion and elimination

  • Used to make long-chain alcohols and acids from 1-alkenes
    • Often in situ reduction of aldehydes to alcohols
    • Unwanted side reaction: hydrogenation of olefin to alkane
  • Main issue: linear vs branched aldehyde formation
  • It is possible to make linear aldehydes from internal olefins !

Insertion and elimination

insertion of longer conjugated systems
Insertion of longer conjugated systems

Attack on an h-polyene is alwaysat a terminal carbon.

Þ LUMO coefficients largest

Þ Usually a,w-insertion

Insertion and elimination

insertion of longer conjugated systems27
Insertion of longer conjugated systems

A diene can be h2 bound.

Þ 1,2-insertion

Metallocenes often do not have enough space for h4 coordination:

Insertion and elimination

diene rubbers
Diene rubbers
  • Butadiene could form three different "ideal" polymers:
  • In practice one obtains an imperfect polymercontaining all possible insertion modes.
  • Product composition can be tuned by catalyst variation.
  • Polymer either used as such or (often)after cross-linking and hydrogenation.

Insertion and elimination

addition to enones
Addition to enones
  • RLi, Grignards: usually 1,2
    • "charge-controlled"
  • OrganoCu compounds often 1,4
    • or even 1,6 etc
    • "orbital-controlled"
    • stereoregular addition possibleusing chiral phosphine ligands
    • frequently used in organic synthesis

Insertion and elimination

less common elimination reactions
Less common elimination reactions


Other ligand metallation reactions:

Probably via s-bond metathesis:

Via s-bond metathesis or oxidative addition/reductive elimination

Insertion and elimination

less common elimination reactions31
Less common elimination reactions

b-elimination from alkoxides of late transition metals is easy:

The hydride often decomposes to H+ and reduced metal:alcohols easily reduce late transition metals.

Also, the aldehyde could be decarbonylated to yield metal carbonyls.

For early transition metals, the insertion is highly exothermicand irreversible.

Insertion and elimination