Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Chemistry, Organic

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Eike Bauer


Alexei Demchenko

Nigam Rath

Janet Braddock-Wilking


With increasing complexity of metal complexes, it is of worthwhile interest to pursue systematic examinations of ligand modifications to study their impact on the reactivity of a catalyst. To that end, this study aimed to understand the effect electron-withdrawing ligands conveyed to catalytic activity in the etherification of propargylic alcohols and related reactions. A number of half-sandwich ruthenium complexes bearing ligands with varying electron–withdrawing properties were synthesized and structurally characterized. Their electronic and structural properties were investigated utilizing X-ray crystallography, revealing that the series of complexes did not vary significantly in structure. The complexes were studied electronically with cyclic voltammetry, which discovered that the coordinated electron-withdrawing ligands resulted in complexes that were more difficult to oxidize and with possibly decreased electron density at the ruthenium center. All complexes showed catalytic activity in the etherification of propargylic alcohols and in the formation of oxygen-containing heterocycles from propargylic alcohols and diketones. Thermal instability offers an explanation as to why some catalyst systems do not perform very well at elevated temperatures. In a separate study, a more stable tridentate ligand was employed as an architecture for further study in this electronic fine-tuning methodology. A new ruthenium complex bearing a tridendate diacetylpyridine ligand was synthesized, characterized, and employed as catalyst in the coupling of carboxylic acids to terminal alkynes to form enol esters with good regioselectivity. Iron offers a number of advantages in transition metal catalysis, as it is inexpensive and relatively non-toxic. Based on preliminary findings from the Bauer laboratory, an in situ catalyst formed through oxidation of ferrocene boronic acid was found to be catalytically active in the etherification of propargylic acetates. Most interestingly, and opposed to all catalytic reactions performed for this study, the ferrocenium cation does not require elevated temperatures and performs well at room temperature.