Opening a Pandora’s Flask on a Prototype Catalytic Direct Arylation Reaction of Pentafluorobenzene: The Ag2CO3/Pd(OAc)2/PPh3 System

George M.H. Platt, Pedro M. Aguiar, Gayathri Athavan, Joshua T.W. Bray, Neil W.J. Scott, Ian J.S. Fairlamb*, Robin N. Perutz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Direct C-H functionalization reactions have opened new avenues in catalysis, removing the need for prefunctionalization of at least one of the substrates. Although C-H functionalization catalyzed by palladium complexes in the presence of a base is generally considered to proceed by the CMD/AMLA-6 mechanism, recent research has shown that silver(I) salts, frequently used as bases, can function as C-H bond activators instead of (or in addition to) palladium(II). In this study, we examine the coupling of pentafluorobenzene 1 to 4-iodotoluene 2a (and its analogues) to form 4-(pentafluorophenyl)toluene 3a catalyzed by palladium(II) acetate with the commonplace PPh3 ligand, silver carbonate as base, and DMF as solvent. By studying the reaction of 1 with Ag2CO3/PPh3 and with isolated silver (triphenylphosphine) carbonate complexes, we show the formation of C-H activation products containing the Ag(C6F5)(PPh3)n unit. However, analysis is complicated by the lability of the Ag-PPh3 bond and the presence of multiple species in the solution. The speciation of palladium(II) is investigated by high-resolution-MAS NMR (chosen for its suitability for suspensions) with a substoichiometric catalyst, demonstrating the formation of an equilibrium mixture of Pd(Ar)(κ1-OAc)(PPh3)2 and [Pd(Ar)(μ-OAc)(PPh3)]2 as resting states (Ar = Ph, 4-tolyl). These two complexes react stoichiometrically with 1 to form coupling products. The catalytic reaction kinetics is investigated by in situ IR spectroscopy revealing a two-term rate law and dependence on [Pdtot/nPPh3]0.5 consistent with the dissociation of an off-cycle palladium dimer. The first term is independent of [1], whereas the second term is first order in [1]. The observed rates are very similar with Pd(PPh3)4, Pd(Ph)(κ1-OAc)(PPh3)2, and [Pd(Ph)(μ-OAc)(PPh3)]2 catalysts. The kinetic isotope effect varied significantly according to conditions. The multiple speciation of both AgI and PdII acts as a warning against specifying the catalytic cycles in detail. Moreover, the rapid dynamic interconversion of AgI species creates a level of complexity that has not been appreciated previously.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2378-2394
Number of pages17
Early online date30 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors.

Funding Information:
We are grateful for the support of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to the Wild Fund of the University of York for a scholarship for G.A., and to the University of York for funding. We acknowledge funding from EPSRC IAA awards for N.W.J.S and J.T.W.B. and a Royal Society Industry Fellowship (I.J.S.F.).

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