Nitride- and alkylidyne complexes of molybdenum endowed with triarylsilanolate ligands are excellent (pre)catalysts for alkyne-metathesis reactions of all sorts, since they combine high activity with an outstanding tolerance toward polar and/or sensitive functional groups. Structural and reactivity data suggest that this promising application profile results from a favorable match between the characteristics of the high-valent molybdenum center and the electronic and steric features of the chosen Ar 3SiO groups. This interplay ensures a well-balanced level of Lewis acidity at the central atom, which is critical for high activity. Moreover, the bulky silanolates, while disfavoring bimolecular decomposition of the operative alkylidyne unit, do not obstruct substrate binding. In addition, Ar 3SiO groups have the advantage that they are more stable within the coordination sphere of a high-valent molybdenum center than tert-alkoxides, which commonly served as ancillary ligands in previous generations of alkyne metathesis catalysts. From a practical point of view it is important to note that complexes of the general type [(Ar 3SiO) 3Mo≡X] (X = N, CR; R = aryl, alkyl, Ar = aryl) can be rendered air-stable with the aid of 1,10-phenanthroline, 2,2'-bipyridine or derivatives thereof. Although the resulting adducts are themselves catalytically inert, treatment with Lewis acidic additives such as ZnCl 2 or MnCl 2 removes the stabilizing N-donor ligand and gently releases the catalytically active template into the solution. This procedure gives excellent results in alkyne metathesis starting from air-stable and hence user-friendly precursor complexes. The thermal and hydrolytic stability of representative molybdenum alkylidyne and -nitride complexes of this series was investigated and the structure of several decomposition products elucidated. Active yet tamed: Molybdenum benzylidyne complexes endowed with triarylsilanolates as ancillary ligands are superbly active and exquisitely selective alkyne metathesis catalysts, but can be rendered air-stable by reversible complexation with 1,10-phenanthroline or 2,2'-bipyridine (see, e.g., figure). A systematic molecular editing of their basic structural motif furnished a "library" of such catalysts and gave detailed insights into the parameters determining their favorable application profile.
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