Research ArticleChemistry

First experimental evidence for a bis-ethene chromium(I) complex forming from an activated ethene oligomerization catalyst

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Science Advances  18 Dec 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 51, eabd7057
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd7057


A bis-ethene chromium(I) species, which is the postulated key intermediate in the widely accepted metallacyclic mechanism for ethene oligomerization, is experimentally observed. This catalytic transformation is an important commercial route to linear α-olefins (primarily, 1-hexene and 1-octene), which act as comonomers for the production of polyethene. Here, electron paramagnetic resonance studies of a catalytic system based on [Cr(CO)4(PNP)][Al(OC(CF3)3)4] [PNP = Ph2PN(iPr)PPh2] activated with Et6Al2 provide the first unequivocal evidence for a chromium(I) bis-ethene complex. The concentration of this species is enhanced under ethene and isotope labeling studies that confirm its composition as containing [Cr(C2H4)2(CO)2(PNP)]+. These observations open a new route to mechanistic studies of selective ethene oligomerization.

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