The cleavage of C–H and C–C bonds by transition metal centres is of fundamental interest and plays an important role in the synthesis of complex organic molecules from petroleum feedstocks1,2,3,4,5,6. But while there are many examples for the oxidative addition of C–H bonds to a metal centre, transformations that feature oxidative addition of C–C bonds are rare. The paucity of transformations that involve the cleavage of C–C rather than C–H bonds is usually attributed to kinetic factors arising from the greater steric hindrance and the directional nature of the sp n hybrids that form the C–C bond, and to thermodynamic factors arising from the fact that M–C bonds are weaker than M–H bonds2,3,4,5. Not surprisingly, therefore, most examples of C–C bond cleavage either avoid the kinetic limitations by using metal compounds in which the C–C bond is held in close proximity to the metal centre, or avoid the thermodynamic limitations by using organic substrates in which the cleavage is accompanied by either a relief of strain energy or the formation of an aromatic system2,3,4,5. Here, we show that a tungsten centre can be used to cleave a strong C–C bond that is a component of an unstrained 6-membered aromatic ring. The cleavage is enabled by the formation of an unusual chelating di(isocyanide) ligand, which suggests that other metal centres with suitable ancillary ligands could also accomplish the cleavage of strong C–C bonds of aromatic substrates and thereby provide new ways of functionalizing such molecules.
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We thank the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DE-FG02-93ER14339) for supporting this research. We thank The National Science Foundation (CHE-0619638) for the acquisition of an X-ray diffractometer. We thank W. Sattler for discussions.
Author Contributions G.P. supervised the project. A.S. synthesized and characterized the compounds. G.P. and A.S. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing financial interests. X-ray crystallographic coordinates have been deposited at the Cambridge Crystallographic Database (CCDC #734113–734121).
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Sattler, A., Parkin, G. Cleaving carbon–carbon bonds by inserting tungsten into unstrained aromatic rings. Nature 463, 523–526 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08730
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