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Hydrogenolysis reactions of so-called lignin model dimers using a Ru-xantphos catalyst are presented (xantphos = 4,5-bis(diphenylphosphino)-9,9-dimethylxanthene). For example, of some nine models studied, the alcohol, 2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)-1-phenylethanol (1), with 5 mol% Ru(H)(2)(CO)(PPh(3))(xantphos) (18) in toluene-d(8) at 135 °C for 20 h under N(2), gives in ~95% yield the C-O cleavage hydrogenolysis products, acetophenone (14) and guaiacol (17), and a small amount (<5%) of the ketone, 2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)-1-phenylethanone (4), as observed by (1)H NMR spectroscopy. The in situ Ru(H)(2)(CO)(PPh(3))(3)/xantphos system gives similar findings, confirming a recent report (J. M. Nichols et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2010, 132, 12554). The active catalyst is formulated 'for convenience' as 'Ru(CO)(xantphos)'. The hydrogenolysis mechanism proceeds by initial dehydrogenation to give the ketone 4, which then undergoes hydrogenolysis of the C-O bond to give 14 and 17. Hydrogenolysis of 4 to 14 and 17 also occurs using the Ru catalyst under 1 atm H(2); in contrast, use of 3-hydroxy-2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)-1-phenyl-1-propanone (7), for example, where the CH(2) of 4 has been changed to CHCH(2)OH, gives a low yield (≤15%) of hydrogenolysis products. Similarly, the diol substrate, 2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)-1-phenyl-1,3-propanediol (9), gives low yields of hydrogenolysis products. These low yields are due to formation of the catalytically inactive complexes Ru(CO)(xantphos)[C(O)C(OC(6)H(4)OMe)=C(Ph)O] (20) and/or Ru(CO)(xantphos)[C(O)CH=C(Ph)O] (21), where the organic fragments result from dehydrogenation of CH(2)OH moieties in 7 and 9. Trace amounts of Ru(CO)(xantphos)(OC(6)H(4)O), a catecholate complex, are isolated from the reaction of 18 with 1. Improved syntheses of 18 and lignin models are also presented.


Adam Wu, Brian O Patrick, Enoch Chung, Brian R James. Hydrogenolysis of β-O-4 lignin model dimers by a ruthenium-xantphos catalyst. Dalton transactions (Cambridge, England : 2003). 2012 Aug 28;41(36):11093-106

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PMID: 22864631

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