Journal of Organic Chemistry

Computational investigations on base-catalyzed diaryl ether formation

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We report investigations with the dispersion-corrected B3LYP density functional method on mechanisms and energetics for reactions of group I metal phenoxides with halobenzenes as models for polyether formation. Calculated barriers for ether formation from para-substituted fluorobenzenes are well correlated with the electron-donating or -withdrawing properties of the substituent at the para position. These trends have also been explained with the distortion/interaction energy theory model which show that the major component of the activation energy is the energy required to distort the arylfluoride reactant into the geometry that it adopts at the transition state. Resonance-stabilized aryl anion intermediates (Meisenheimer complexes) are predicted to be energetically disfavored in reactions involving fluorobenzenes with a single electron-withdrawing group at the para position of the arene, but are formed when the fluorobenzenes are very electron-deficient, or when chelating substituents at the ortho position of the aryl ring are capable of binding with the metal cation, or both. Our results suggest that the presence of the metal cation does not increase the rate of reaction, but plays an important role in these reactions by binding the fluoride or nitrite leaving group and facilitating displacement. We have found that the barrier to reaction decreases as the size of the metal cation increases among a series of group I metal phenoxides due to the fact that the phenoxide becomes less distorted in the transition state as the size of the metal increases. © 2013 American Chemical Society.