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Palladium-Catalysed C–F Alumination of Fluorobenzenes: Mechanistic Diversity and Origin of Selectivity

submitted on 31.03.2020, 14:46 and posted on 01.04.2020, 13:07 by Feriel Rekhroukh, Wenyi Chen, Ryan Brown, Andrew J. P. White, Mark Crimmin
A palladium pre-catalyst, [Pd(PCy3)2] is reported for the efficient and selective C–F alumination of fluorobenzenes with the aluminium(I) reagent [{(ArNCMe)2CH}Al] (1, Ar = 2,6-di-iso-propylphenyl). The catalytic protocol results in the transformation of sp2 C–F bonds to sp2 C–Al bonds and provides a route into reactive organoaluminium complexes (2a-h) from fluorocarbons. The catalyst is highly active. Reactions proceed within 5 minutes at 25 ºC (and at appreciable rates at even –50 ºC) and the scope includes low-fluorine-content substrates such as fluorobenzene, difluorobenzenes and trifluorobenzenes. The reaction proceeds with complete chemoselectivity (C–F vs C–H) and high regioselectivities ( >90% for C–F bonds adjacent to the most acidic C–H sites). The heterometallic complex [Pd(PCy3)(1)2] was shown to be catalytically competent. Catalytic C–F alumination proceeds with a KIE of 1.1–1.3. DFT calculations have been used to model potential mechanisms for C–F bond activation. These calculations suggest that two competing mechanisms may be in operation. Pathway 1 involves a ligand-assisted oxidative addition to [Pd(1)2] and leads directly to the product. Pathway 2 involves a stepwise C–H to C–F functionalisation mechanism in which the C–H bond is broken and reformed along the reaction coordinate, allowing it to act as a directing group for the adjacent C–F site. This second mechanism explains the experimentally observed regioselectivity. Experimental support for this C–H activation playing a key role in C–F alumination was obtained by employing [{(MesNCMe)2CH}AlH2] (3, Mes = 2,4,6-trimethylphenyl) as a reagent in place of 1. In this instance, the kinetic C–H alumination intermediate could be isolated. Under catalytic conditions this intermediate converts to the thermodynamic C–F alumination product.


FluoroCross: 745806 (ERC)

FluoroFix: 677367 (ERC)


Email Address of Submitting Author


Imperial College London


United Kingdom

ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest

Version Notes

version 1.0