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Ruthenium K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy studies of ruthenium complexes relevant to olefin metathesis Getty, Kendra Joyce


Despite previous extensive study of the widely-employed ruthenium-catalysed olefin metathesis reaction, the finer mechanistic details have not been elucidated. An area that is noticeably lacking is spectroscopic exploration of the relevant complexes. In this work, organometallic ruthenium complexes of importance to olefin metathesis have been investigated using Ru K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The lowest energy feature in the Ru K-edge spectrum has been unambiguously assigned as due to Ru 4d←1s transitions. These electric-dipole-forbidden transitions are extremely sensitive to geometry. For centrosymmetric complexes, the pre-edge feature has very low intensity because it is limited by the weak electric quadrupole mechanism. By contrast, non-centrosymmetric complexes exhibit a substantial increase in pre-edge intensity because Ru 5p-4d mixing introduces electric-dipole-allowed character to the Ru 4d←1s transitions. The energy of the edge feature in the Ru K-edge spectrum corresponds to ionisation of 1s electrons and is a good indicator of the charge on the metal centre. Unexpectedly, we found that the first-generation (L = PCy₃) Grubbs precatalyst (1) has a higher 1s ionisation energy than the second-generation (L = H₂IMes) complex (2). This effect provides a compelling rationale for the unexplained differences in phosphine dissociation kinetics for complexes 1 and 2: the phosphine dissociation rate of 2 is slower than 1 because the metal centre is more electron-deficient in 2. Density functional theory calculations confirm the charge differences and offer some insight into the nature of bonding in these complexes, particularly with regard to the N-heterocyclic carbene and trialkylphosphine ligands. On the basis of these results, we propose that, for this system, the NHC ligand is a weaker σ-charge donor than the phosphine ligand, and that the NHC accepts significant π-electron density from the metal; both interactions function to reduce the electron density on the ruthenium centre. An ultimate goal is to investigate reactive species in the olefin metathesis mechanism; accordingly, we have made considerable progress toward collecting XAS data for a metallacyclobutane species, and we are pursuing methods to trap the four-coordinate intermediate in the metathesis cycle.

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