The kinetics of the racemization of aromatic 1,3-disubstituted allenes catalyzed by gold phosphine complexes has been investigated. The rate of gold-catalyzed allene racemization displayed first-order dependence on allene, and catalyst concentration and kinetic analysis of gold-catalyzed allene racemization as a function of allene and phosphine electron-donor ability established the accumulation of electron density on the phosphine atom and the depletion of electron density on the terminal allenyl carbon atoms in the rate-limiting transition state for racemization. These and other observations were in accord with a mechanism for allene racemization involving rapid and reversible inter- and intramolecular allene exchange followed by turnover-limiting, unimolecular conversion of a chiral gold η(2)-allene complex to an achiral η(1)-allylic cation intermediate through a bent and twisted η(1)-allene transition state. With respect to proper ligand selection, these studies reveal that both electron-poor phosphine ligands and polar solvents facilitate racemization.
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