A system for catalytic trimerization of ethylene utilizing CrCl3(THF)3 and a diphosphine ligand PNPOMe [= (o-MeO-C6H4)2PN(Me)P(o-MeO-C6H4)2] has been investigated. The coordination chemistry of chromium with PNPOMe has been explored, and (PNPOMe)CrCl3 and (PNPOMe)CrPh3 (3) have been synthesized by ether displacement from chromium(III) precursors. Salt metathesis of (PNPOMe)CrCl3 with o,o'-biphenyldiyl Grignard affords (PNPOMe)Cr(o,o'-biphenyldiyl)Br (4). Activation of 3 with H(Et2O)2B[C6H3(CF3)2]4 or 4 with NaB[C6H3(CF3)2]4 generates a catalytic system and trimerizes a 1:1 mixture of C2D4 and C2H4 to give isotopomers of 1-hexene without H/D scrambling (C6D12, C6D8H4, C6D4H8, and C6H12 in a 1:3:3:1 ratio). The lack of crossover supports a mechanism involving metallacyclic intermediates. The mechanism of the ethylene trimerization reaction has also been studied by the reaction of trans-, cis-, and gem-ethylene-d2 with 4 upon activation with NaB[C6H3(CF3)2]4.
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