Steric and electronic modulation of iron catalysts as a route to remarkably high molecular weight linear polyethylenes.

Five structurally related bis(arylimino)pyridine-iron(ii) chloride complexes, [2-[CMeN{2,6-{(4-FC6H4)2CH}2-4-NO2}]-6-(CMeNAr)C5H3N]FeCl2 (Ar = 2,6-Me2C6H3Fe1, 2,6-Et2C6H3Fe2, 2,6-i-Pr2C6H3Fe3, 2,4,6-Me3C6H2Fe4, and 2,6-Et2-4-MeC6H2Fe5), incorporating one N-2,6-bis{di(4-fluorophenyl)methyl}-4-nitrophenyl group and one distinct N-aryl group, have been prepared in good yield through the interaction of the corresponding free ligands (L1-L5) with FeCl2·4H2O. All ferrous complexes were paramagnetic which was manifested by broad and highly shifted peaks in their 1H NMR spectra. The marked steric imbalance imposed by the two inequivalent N-aryl groups was a key feature highlighted in the molecular structures of representative complexes Fe1 and Fe2. Upon activation with either MAO or MMAO, Fe1-Fe5 all exhibited high activities for ethylene polymerization with good thermal stability [activities as high as 1.58 × 107 g (PE) mol-1 (Fe) h-1 at 60 °C], affording especially high molecular weight linear polyethylenes (3.92 × 105 g mol-1 at 70 °C; Tm > 130 °C). To the best of our knowledge, the molecular weights of the polyethylenes produced by the current class of iron catalysts exceed the highest values reported for related bis(imino)pyridine-iron catalysts to date; changes in the ortho-R1 substitution pattern offered some additional fine control of the molecular weight. Moreover, the nature of the aluminoxane co-catalyst employed had a noticeable effect on the polymer end group composition. When using MAO, unsaturated polymers containing both vinyl and n-propyl end groups were evident, whereas with MMAO, fully saturated polymers were generated containing both isobutyl and n-propyl end groups.

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