Transition metal-catalyzed alkene isomerization is an enabling technology used to install an alkene distal to its original site. Due to their well-defined structure, homogeneous catalysts can be fine-tuned to optimize reactivity, stereoselectivity, and positional selectivity, but they often suffer from instability and non-recyclability. Heterogeneous catalysts are generally highly robust, but they continue to lack active-site specificity and are challenging to rationally improve through structural modification, therefore exhibiting lower catalytic performance. Known single-site heterogeneous catalysts for alkene isomerization utilize precious metals and bespoke, expensive, and synthetically intense supports. Additionally, they generally have mediocre reactivity, inspiring us to develop a heterogeneous catalyst with an active site made from readily available compounds made of Earth-abundant elements. Previous work demonstrated that a very active homoge-neous catalyst is formed upon protonation of Ni[P(OEt)3]4 by H2SO4, generating a [Ni–H]+ active site. This catalyst is in-credibly active, but also decomposes readily, which severely limits its utility. Herein we show that by using a solid acid (sulfated zirconia, SZO300), not only is this decomposition prevented, but high activity is maintained, improved selectivity is achieved, and a broader scope of functional groups is tolerated. Preliminary mechanistic experiments suggest that the catalyst likely goes through an intermolecular, two-electron pathway. A detailed kinetic study comparing the state-of-the-art Ni and Pd isomerization catalysts reveals that the highest activity and selectivity is seen with the Ni/SZO300 system. The reactivity of Ni/SZO300, is not limited to alkene isomerization; it is also a competent catalyst for hydroalkenylation, hydroboration, and hydrosilylation, demonstrating the broad application of this heterogeneous catalyst.
Contains synthetic and catalytic procedures, characterization data, and data from reaction monitoring.