Effect of Lewis Acids on the Catalyst Activity for Alkene Metathesis, Z-/E- Selectivity and Stability of Tungsten Oxo Alkylidenes

J. Haydée Merino, Jesús Bernad, Xavier Solans-Monfort*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Lewis acids increase the catalytic activity of classical heterogeneous catalysts and molecular d(0) tungsten oxo alkylidenes in a variety of olefin metathesis processes. The formation of labile adducts between the metal complex and the Lewis acid has been observed experimentally and suggested to be involved in the catalyst activity increase. In this contribution, DFT (M06) calculations have been performed to determine the role of Lewis acids on catalyst activity, Z-/E- selectivity and stability by comparing three W(E)(CHR)(2,5-dimethylpyrrolide)(O-2,6-dimesithylphenoxide) (E = oxo, imido or oxo-Lewis acid adduct) alkylidenes. Results show that the formation of the alkylidene-Lewis acid adducts influences the reactivity of tungsten oxo alkylidenes due to both steric and electronic effects. The addition of the Lewis acid on the E group increases its bulkiness and this decreases catalyst Z-selectivity. Moreover, the interaction between the oxo ligand and the Lewis acid decreases the donating ability of the former toward the metal. This is important when the oxo group has either a ligand in trans or in the same plane that is competing for the same metal d orbitals. Therefore, the weakening of oxo donating ability facilitates the cycloaddition and cycloreversion steps and it stabilizes the productive trigonal bipyramid metallacyclobutane isomer. The two factors increase the catalytic activity of the complex. The electron donating tuneability by the coordination of the Lewis acid also applies to catalyst deactivation and particularly the key beta-hydride elimination step. In this process, the transition states show a ligand in pseudo trans to the oxo. Therefore, the presence of the Lewis acid decreases the Gibbs energy barrier significantly. Overall, the optimization of the E group donating ability in each step of the reaction makes tungsten oxo alkylidenes more reactive and this applies both for the catalytic activity and catalyst deactivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-447
Number of pages15
JournalTopics in Catalysis
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2021


  • Catalyst deactivation
  • Density functional theory
  • Lewis acid
  • Metal alkylidenes
  • Olefin metathesis


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