Department of Chemistry



 1. Annulated Chiral NHCs:

(a) Benzimidazolylidenes Derived from Phenanthrolines:
Our group has developed innovative routes to several chiral imidazoline-type N-hetereocyclic carbenes (NHCs). We have prepared benzimidazolium-based NHCs via reduction of substituted phenanthrolines. In comparison to previous chiral benzimidazolylidenes, the compounds represented by the general structure 4 have several unique features that make them interesting for applications in asymmetric synthesis, both as NHCs and as non-carbenoid reagents: (a) they are amenable to structural diversification because many different substituents (alkyl, aryl) can be regioselectively introduced into the 2- or the 2,9-positions of 1,10-phenanthroline via nucleophilic aromatic substitution (NAS); (b) after reduction, the resulting octahydrophenanthrolines (2) have stereogenic centers locked within rings, the rigidity of which results in well-defined chiral environments for any reagents derived from them (3); (c) they are amenable to electronic modification by electrophilic aromatic substitution (EAS) at the two open positions on the benzene ring, which are activated by the presence of nitrogen atoms para to those sites. Ongoing research in the group is focused on synthetic applications of these reagents.


(b) Stereoselective Synthesis of Pyrroloimidazol(in)ylidenes: Our NHC research has expanded to include a new series of C1-symmetric systems with pyrroloimidazol(in)ylidene (5) frameworks, which retain the annulated chiral structural motif that is a design feature of our reagents.  Mono-annulated chiral imidazolium NHC precatalysts 5 superficially resemble much more common triazolium (6) and thiazolium (7) precatalysts, but they have seen limited use despite promising results by Bode demonstrating their divergent reactivity (2009 Org. Lett. 677) when they are employed as nucleophilic catalysts. We have developed a simple two-step stereoselective synthesis of C5-substituted annulated chiral pyrroloimidazol(in)ylidene precatalysts (8 10 and 11 13) using an approach that borrows from our earlier work with phenanthroline-derived NHCs. This is an important advancement because the previous state-of-the-art to make annulated chiral imidazolylidene precatalysts required 8 synthetic steps, which explains why there are limited catalytic studies of these compounds to date. Refinement of our method will give practical and rapid access to a large number of precatalysts and ligands that until now have been rare. The number of potential applications of these new NHCs is very large and spans nucleophilic organocatalysis, metal-mediated catalysis and emerging fields such as "Frustrated" Lewis Pair (FLP) catalysis. Work in this area is progressing on all fronts.

2. Aminoferrocenes:

 Since the 1970's planar chiral ferrocenes have gained increasing prominence in asymmetric organic synthesis. Differentially 1,2-disubstituted ferrocenes (e.g., 14) possess planar chirality, and as such, may complement the behavior of ligands such as phosphines 15 or binaphthyls 16 that have central or axial chirality. A resurgence of interest for induction of planar chirality into ferrocenes in the 1990s, based on stereoselective lithiation, has provided the synthetic community with many methods for preparing precursors to new ligands. Despite available methods, many axial and central chiral ligands of importance in catalysis still lack planar chiral ferrocenyl analogues, especially for aminoferrocenes where nitrogen is directly attached to the cyclopentadienyl ring. The limited examples may be attributed to impracticalities imposed by the previous synthetic routes. In response, we have developed a direct enantioselective synthesis of planar chiral aminoferrocenes using BF3-activated lithiation (17 1819) for which patents have been filed. Many products derived from this method have unusual substitution patterns, are very rare, or completely unknown. Iridium complexes 21 of P,N-ligands such as 20 have shown encouraging catalytic activity in reactions with prochiral substrates. Work towards developing enantioselective reactions mediated by congeners of these ligands is ongoing in our group.


Dept. of Chemistry
Brock University
1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way
St. Catharines, ON
Canada, L2S 3A1
Tel: (905) 688-5550 x3406

Administrative Assistant:
Marie Harris

Razvan Simionescu