We are applying the "transition state complexation" concept to the design of transition metal-based catalysts for hydrocarbon rearrangements. The concept of accelerating a single-step (i.e. concerted) reaction by binding to its transition state structure more tightly than to the reactant(s) has a long history, yet this concept has been underexploited in the field of organometallic catalyst design. We are currently using this principle to design catalysts for metal-promoted sigmatropic shifts.
Many examples exist of transition metal-based catalysts that accelerate pericyclic reactions, but most of these examples involve a change in mechanism from a concerted rearrangement to a multistep process. We refer to the change from a concerted to a stepwise process as "intervention" by the transition metal-based catalyst, but we are focusing on avoiding this sort of mechanistic change - and the avenues to byproducts that it opens up - by exploiting the transition state complexation process, a process in which the transition state structure for the uncatalyzed reaction maintains its structure (at least approximately) and functions as a ligand for the transition metal-based catalyst (or stoichiometric "promoter").
We have previously described the effects of complexing transition state structures for electrocyclization reactions by protons (thereby turning them into sigmatropic shifts; a concept that we refer to as "transition state protonation"). We have also applied the transition state complexation idea to the promotion of otherwise orbital symmetry-forbidden 4-electron electrocyclic reactions (cyclobutene ring-openings) via complexation with iron carbonyls, and we have predicted that some [3,3] sigmatropic shifts can be accelerated through weak but selective interactions between transition state structures and halogens.