Synlett 2005(4): 709-710  
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-863725
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Tri-tert-butylphosphine [P(t-Bu)3]: An Electron-Rich Ligand for Palladium in Cross-Coupling Reactions

Srinivas Reddy Dubbaka*
Laboratory of Glycochemistry and Asymmetric Synthesis, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), BCH, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
22 February 2005 (online)


Transition-metal-catalyzed cross-couplings are recognized to be the most powerful carbon-carbon bond forming reactions. [1] The palladium-catalyzed coupling of aryl halides, arylsulfonates with aryl/alkyl metals (such as M = B, Sn, Zn, Si, Mg) are very often employed in the synthesis of compounds, the skeletons of which are found in a wide range of important natural products and analogues of biological interest. [2] [3] Before 1990, the insertion of palladium into C-Br and C-I bonds was well exploited. However, the same reaction with C-Cl bonds proved to be very difficult. Organochloride compounds are less ex­pensive than the other organohalides, and would thus be most interesting partners in cross-coupling reactions. Fu and co-workers have shown that electron-rich ligands such as tri-tert-butyl phosphine [P(t-Bu)3] allow the metal insertion into C-Cl bonds at or above room temperature. Subsequent transmetalations with organoboron, organotin, organozinc, organocopper and organosilicon reagents and final reductive elimination give the corresponding products of C-C cross-couplings. [4] Littke and Fu showed that arylation of olefins can be catalyzed by the same Pd/P(t-Bu)3 system.

Other convenient ligands have been proposed to promote the palladium oxidative addition of aryl chlorides. Most common today are bulky, electron-rich chelating bisphosphines as those proposed by Milstein, [5] bulky and electron-rich phosphines proposed by Buchwald, [6] the palladacycles and N-heterocyclic carbenes proposed by Herrmann, [7] as well as the phosphites proposed by Beller. [8]


P(t-Bu)3 1 can be easily prepared by a two-step sequence starting with addition of tert-butylmagnesium chloride to PCl3 (Scheme [1] ). Chloro-di-tert-butylphosphine thus obtained is then reacted with 1.2 equiv of tert-butyl lithium to produce desired product 1. [4c] The pKa of P(t-Bu)3 was found to be 11.4. Thus, P(t-Bu)3 appears to be one of the most basic phosphines, leading to a particular behaviour as ligand in numerous catalyzed reactions. [4a,b]

Scheme 1

This ligand is available from Strem company as a 10% ­solution (w/w) in hexane or in dioxane. Although it is also available in pure form from other commercial sources, it is conveniently used as a solution, since only a small amount of ligand is usually needed and also because it is most air sensitive in its pure form. The reagent can be stored at low temperature and must be manipulated in a glove box or under a nitrogen flow.


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