Tetrabenzocirculene: Synthesis and Structural Properties of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons with Negative Curvature
Contorted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have found increasing utility in the application of molecular electronics due to the surpamolecular properties that result from these non-planar structures. The [n]circulene series of molecules are particularly attractive members of the contorted aromatic family due to the unique structural implications that result from their changing value of n. For example, when n ≤ 5, the structures adopt a bowl-like shape; when n = 6, a planar structure is observed; and when 7 ≤ n ≤ 16, the compounds assume a saddle-like shape. Very few molecules exhibit the structural contortions that these contorted aromatics do – primarily because aromatic molecules desire to adopt highly planar conformations.
Following the model of aromaticity developed by Erich Clar, we set our sights on the synthesis of tetrabenzocirculene, the stabilized form of circulene established through the addition of four fused benzenoid rings around the periphery of the molecule. The initial approach towards this structure employs a Diels-Alder [4 + 2] cycloaddition reaction and a palladium catalyzed arylation reaction as the key transformation steps. The results of these studies were promising, establishing the structural characterization of this new molecule and providing access to functionalized derivatives of the saddle-shaped structure. However, access towards these functionalized derivatives proved limiting, compelling us to investigate alternative synthetic methodologies.
In the course of our studies, we established a new methodology towards 2,5-diarylthiophene-1-oxides, a key precursor to the Diels-Alder cycloaddition reaction. These reactive dienes are prepared from readily available arylacetylene precursors via zirconacyclopentadiene intermediates. The isolated yields of the desired thiophene-1-oxides are comparable to those obtained from previously established oxidation strategies while avoiding the formation of over-oxidation products. Of significant importance to scope of our work, this newly established methodology offers broader versatility providing products outfitted with electron-donating or electron-withdrawing groups.
These new methodologies provided access to functionalized derivatives of the saddle-shaped molecule tetrabenzocirculene in improved yield when coupled with a revised Diels-Alder/oxidative cyclodehydrogenation approach. This methodology affords products containing both electron-rich and electron-poor functional groups in a more efficient manner. The optoelectronic effects that result from the introduction of this functionality and investigations into the development of larger contorted aromatic systems are also discussed.