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Keywords:

  • Lewis acid;
  • Lewis base;
  • hydrogenation;
  • small-molecule activation;
  • steric frustration

Abstract

Sterically encumbered Lewis acid and Lewis base combinations do not undergo the ubiquitous neutralization reaction to form “classical” Lewis acid/Lewis base adducts. Rather, both the unquenched Lewis acidity and basicity of such sterically “frustrated Lewis pairs (FLPs)” is available to carry out unusual reactions. Typical examples of frustrated Lewis pairs are inter- or intramolecular combinations of bulky phosphines or amines with strongly electrophilic RB(C6F5)2 components. Many examples of such frustrated Lewis pairs are able to cleave dihydrogen heterolytically. The resulting H+/H pairs (stabilized for example, in the form of the respective phosphonium cation/hydridoborate anion salts) serve as active metal-free catalysts for the hydrogenation of, for example, bulky imines, enamines, or enol ethers. Frustrated Lewis pairs also react with alkenes, aldehydes, and a variety of other small molecules, including carbon dioxide, in cooperative three-component reactions, offering new strategies for synthetic chemistry.