• Homogeneous catalysis;
  • Lanthanides;
  • Lewis acids;
  • Electrophilic substitution;
  • Nitration;
  • Rare earths


Lanthanide(III) complexes of p-nitrobenzenesulfonic acid, Ln(p-NBSA)3, m-nitrobenzenesulfonic acid, Ln(m-NBSA)3, and 2,4-nitrobenzenesulfonic acid, Ln(2,4-NBSA)3, were prepared, characterized and examined as catalyst for the nitration of benzene, toluene, xylenes, naphthalene, bromobenzene and chlorobenzene. The initial screening of the catalysts showed that lanthanum(III) complexes were more effective than the corresponding ytterbium(III) complexes, and that catalysts containing the bulky 2,4-NBSA ligand were less effective than the catalyst containing p-NBSA (nosylate) or m-NBSA ligands. Examination of a series of Ln(p-NBSA)3 and Ln(m-NBSA)3 catalysts revealed that there is a clear correlation between the ionic radii of the lanthanide(III) ions and the yields of nitration, with the lighter lanthanides being more effective. The X-ray single crystal structure of Yb(m-NBSA)3·6H2O shows that two m-NBSA ligands are directly bound to the metal centre while the third ligand is not located in the first coordination sphere, but it is hydrogen bonded to one of the water molecules which is coordinated to ytterbium(III). NMR studies suggest that this structure is preserved under the conditions used in the nitration reaction. The structure of Yb(m-NBSA)3 is markedly different from the structure of the well-known ytterbium(III) triflate catalyst. The coordination of the nitrobenzenesulfonate counterion to the lanthanide(III) ion suggests that steric effects might play an important role in determining the efficiency of these novel nitration catalysts. (© Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, 69451 Weinheim, Germany, 2004)