Catalyst Control of Selectivity in the C–O Bond Alumination of Biomass Derived Furans

27 May 2020, Version 3
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Non-catalysed and catalysed reactions of aluminium reagents with furans, dihydrofurans and dihydropyrans were investigated and lead to the ring-expanded products due to the formal insertion of the aluminium reagent into a C–O bond of the heterocycle. Specifically, the reaction of [{(ArNCMe)2CH}Al] (Ar = 2,6-di-iso-propylphenyl, 1) with furan, 2-methylfuran, 2,3-dimethylfuran and 2-methoxyfuran proceeded between 25 and 80 ºC leading to ring-expanded and dearomatised products due to the net transformation of a sp2 C–O bond into a sp2 C–Al bond. The kinetics of the reaction of 1 with furan were found to be 1st order with respect to 1 with activation parameters ΔH‡ = +19.7 (± 2.7) kcal mol-1, ΔS‡ = –18.8 (± 7.8) cal K-1 mol-1 and ΔG‡298 K = +25.3 (± 0.5) kcal mol-1 and a KIE of 1.0 ± 0.1. DFT calculations support a stepwise mechanism involving an initial (4+1) cycloaddition of 1 with furan to form a bicyclic intermediate that rearranges by an a-migration. The selectivity of ring-expansion is influenced by factors that weaken the sp2 C–O bond through population of the s*-orbital. Inclusion of [Pd(PCy3)2] as a catalyst in these reactions results in expansion of the substrate scope to include 2,3-dihydrofurans and 3,4-dihydropyrans but also improves the selectivity. Under catalysed conditions, the C–O bond that breaks is that adjacent to C–H bond. The aluminium(III) dihydride reagent [{(MesNCMe)2CH}AlH2] (Mes = 2,4,6-trimethylphenyl, 2) can also be used under catalytic conditions to effect a dehydrogenative ring-expansion of furans. Further mechanistic analysis of the Pd-catalysed reaction of 1 with furan shows that C–O bond functionalisation occurs via an initial C–H bond alumination. Kinetic products can be isolated that are derived from installation of the aluminium reagent at the 2-position of the heterocycle. C–H alumination proceeds with a strong primary KIE of 4.8 ± 0.3 consistent with a turnover limiting step involving oxidative addition of the C–H bond to a palladium catalyst. Isomerisation of the kinetic C–H aluminated product to the thermodynamic C–O ring expansion product is an intramolecular process that is again catalysed by [Pd(PCy3)2]. DFT calculations suggest that the key C–O bond breaking step involves attack of an aluminium based metalloligand on the 2-palladated heterocycle. The new methodology has been applied to the upgrading of molecules derived from furfuraldehyde, an important platform chemical from biomass.


C–O bond activation
C–O bond functionalisation

Supplementary materials

SI Me Furan 23May


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.