Mechanistic-Insight-Driven Rate Enhancement of Asymmetric Copper-Catalyzed 1,4-Addition of Dialkylzinc Reagents to Enones

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  • Authors:
  • Ryan Nouch
  • Simon Woodward
  • Darren Willcox
  • David Robinson
  • William Lewis


The combination of [Cu(MeCN)4]TFA·TFAH (TFA = O2CCF3) with Feringa’s phosphoramidite ligand (LA) provides an exceptionally active (0.75 mol %) catalyst for asymmetric conjugate additions of ZnR2 (R = Et and Me at −40 to −80 °C) to enones. Kinetic and other studies of the addition of ZnEt2 to cyclohex-2-en-1-one indicate a transition state stoichiometry composition of (ZnEt2)3(enone)4Cu2(LA)3 that is generated by transmetalation from Et2Zn(enone)2. Catalyst genesis is significantly slower than turnover (which has limited previous attempts to attain useful kinetic data); in the initial stages, varying populations of catalytically inactive, off-cycle, species are present. These issues are overcome by a double-dose kinetic analysis protocol. A rest state of [LACu(Et)(μ-TFA)(μ-{(enone)(ZnEt)2(enolate)})CuLA2]+ (through the equivalence of enolate = enone + ZnEt2) is supported by DFT studies (ωB97X-D/SRSC). Rate-determining ZnEt2(enone)2 transmetalation drives the exceptionally high catalytic activity of this system.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)acs.organomet.0c00005
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2020