Development and Application of Computational Methods for the Prediction of Chiral Phosphoric Acid Catalyst Performance
Chiral phosphoric acids are bifunctional catalysts that have the ability to activate electrophiles and nucleophiles through hydrogen bonding, and they have been successful in catalysing highly enantioselective additions of a wide range of nucleophiles to imines. In most literature reports it is not frequently revealed how these catalysts impart enantioselectivity. Thus, the vast majority of time required for reaction development is expended on the optimisation of the catalyst features. The research described here explores the ability of relating computational derived catalyst parameters to enantioselectivity as a means to assess the catalyst features important for enantioinduction. The proposed features are evaluated computationally and summarised into simple qualitative models to understand and predict outcomes of similar reactions.
In Chapter 1, I provide an overview of the progress and challenges in the development of chiral phosphoric acid mediated reactions. I highlight leading computational studies that have enabled a greater understanding of how the catalyst imparts reactivity and selectivity. In general, the studies focus on the most effective catalyst and do not do a detailed investigation into the effects of changing the substituents at the 3,3’ positions. Implicating steric effects from reasonably large groups as a key component in imparting enantioselectivity. However, it is clear that they have a more subtle effect. A large group is required but if it is too large poor or unusual results are obtained, making the correct choice of reaction conditions challenging. In Chapter 2, I develop a quantitative assessment of the substituents at the 3,3’ positions. I show in Chapters 3 and 4 that I can use rotation barriers in combination with a novel steric parameter, AREA(θ), to correlate enantioselectivity. By exploiting this finding, the catalyst features important for enantioselectivity can be identified, and this is validated by QM/MM hybrid calculations. Summarising these detailed calculations into a single qualitative model, guides optimal catalyst choice for all seventy-seven literature reactions reporting over 1000 transformations. These mechanistic studies have guided the design of a new catalyst with increased versatility, which is discussed in Chapter 5.
Chapter 6 details my study into the effect of the hydroxyl group on the mechanism of transfer hydrogenation of imines derived from ortho-hydroxyacetophenone. I show, using detailed DFT and ONIOM calculations, that transition states of these reactions involve hydrogen bonding from both the hydroxyl group on the imine and the nucleophile’s proton to the phosphate catalyst. In Chapter 7, computational analysis is used to provide insight into the origins of enantioselectivity in chiral phosphoric acid catalysed Friedel-Crafts and Mannich reactions proceeding through monoactivation mechanisms.
The final chapter contains an in-depth look into the stereoelectronic effects altering enantioselectivity in the silver-phosphate mediated spirocyclisation reaction involving aromatic ynones. In this study I show that enantioselectivity is governed by the non-covalent interactions between the aromatic group of the ynone and the 3,3’ substituent. I was able to propose synthetic modifications to the substrate used in this reaction, resulting in an improvement in enantioselectivity.