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Borenium Salt Catalysts Readily Reduce Imines

Lewis acid-base pair complexes couple with a neutral borane to create highly reactive organocatalysts

by Stephen K. Ritter
October 15, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 42

Canadian chemists have learned how to generate powerful metal-free catalysts for important imine reduction reactions by starting from boron-based Lewis acid-base complexes (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja307374j). Patrick Eisenberger, Adrian M. Bailey, and Cathleen M. Crudden of Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, coupled B(C6F5)3 or [(C6H5)3C][B(C6F5)4] with 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane and pinacolborane. The resulting catalytic salts consist of a highly electrophilic borenium cation paired with a fluorophenylborate anion (one shown). Crudden’s team found that the catalytic borenium complexes activate the C=N bond of a broad range of imines and use the hydrogen from pina­colborane to reduce the C=N bond to form secondary amines under mild reaction conditions. In another paper just published, Jeffrey M. Farrell, Jillian A. Hatnean, and Douglas W. Stephan of the University of Toronto report a related borenium catalyst that activates and uses H2 for imine reductions (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja307995f). These two reports are the first examples of borenium catalysts being used for metal-free reductions, Crudden says. Both groups provide new strategies for avoiding the use of stoichiometric boro­hydride salts, but Crudden’s version offers a unique mechanism that also avoids the need to use H2 gas.


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