Diphosphines, sometimes called bisphosphanes, are organophosphorus compounds most commonly used as bidentate phosphine ligands in inorganic and organometallic chemistry. They are identified by the presence of two phosphino groups linked by a backbone, and are usually chelating.[1] A wide variety of diphosphines have been synthesized with different linkers and R-groups. Alteration of the linker and R-groups alters the electronic and steric properties of the ligands which can result in different coordination geometries and catalytic behavior in homogeneous catalysts.

Skeletal formula of a generic diphosphine ligand. R represents a side chain. The phosphine donors are connected by a backbone linker.


Chlorodiisopropylphosphine is a popular building block for the preparation of diphosphines.

From phosphide building blocksEdit

(2-Bromophenyl)diphenylphosphine is a precursor to unsymmetrical diphosphines.

Many widely used diphosphine ligands have the general formula Ar2P(CH2)nPAr2. These compounds can be prepared from the reaction of X(CH2)nX (X=halogen) and MPPh2 (M = alkali metal):[2]

Cl(CH2)nCl + 2 NaPPh2 → Ph2P(CH2)nPPh2 + 2 NaCl

Diphosphine ligands can also be prepared from dilithiated reagents and chlorophosphines:[3]

XLi2 + 2 ClPAr2 → X(PAr2)2 + 2 LiCl (X = hydrocarbon backbone)

This approach is suitable for installing two dialkylphosphino groups, using reagents such as chlorodiisopropylphosphine.

Another popular method, suitable for preparing unsymmetrical diphosphines, involves the addition of secondary phosphines to vinylphosphines:

Ph2PH + 2 CH2=CHPAr2 → Ph2PCH2-CH2PAr2

(2-Lithiophenyl)diphenylphosphine can be used also to give unsymmetrical diphosphines. The lithiated reagent is available from (2-bromophenyl)diphenylphosphine:

Ph2P(C6H4Br) + BuLi → Ph2P(C6H4Li) + BuBr
Ph2P(C6H4Li) + R2PCli → Ph2P(C6H4PR2) + LiCl

From bis(dichlorophosphine) precursorsEdit

Many diphosphines are prepared from compounds of the type X(PCl2)2 where X = (CH2)n or C6H4. The key reagents are 1,2-bis(dichlorophosphino)ethane and 1,2-bis(dichlorophosphino)benzene.

1,2-Bis(dichlorophosphino)ethane is a key intermediate in the synthesis of 1,2-bis(dimethylphosphino)ethane.[4][5]

Chain length and coordinating propertiesEdit

The short-chain diphosphine dppm tends to promote metal-metal interactions as illustrated by A-frame complexes. When the two phosphine substituents are linked by two to four carbon centres, the resulting ligands often chelate rings with a single metal. A common diphosphine ligand is dppe, which forms a five-membered chelate ring with most metals.

Some diphosphines, such as the extraordinary case of tBu2P(CH2)10PtBu2, give macrocyclic complexes with as many as 72 atoms in a ring.[6]

To position phosphine donor groups trans on a coordination sphere, several atoms are required to link the donor centres and long-chain diphosphines are typically floppy and do not chelate well. This challenge has been resolved by the long but rigid diphosphine SPANphos.[7] The bite angle of the diphosphine influences the reactivity of the metal center.[8]

Some examples of non-chelating diphosphine also exist. Due to steric effect, these phosphorus atoms can not react with anything except a proton. [9] It can be changed from non-chelating to chelating diphosphine by tuning the length of the linking arm.[10]

Representative ligandsEdit

Particularly common diphosphine ligands are shown in the table below:[11]

Abbreviation Common name
(from which abbreviation derived)
Structure Bite Angle
dppm 1,1-Bis(diphenylphosphino)methane   73
dmpe 1,2-Bis(dimethylphosphino)ethane  
dippe 1,2-Bis(diisopropylphosphino)ethane  
dppbz 1,2-Bis(diphenylphosphino)benzene  
dppe 1,2-Bis(diphenylphosphino)ethane   86
DIPAMP derivative of phenylanisylmethylphosphine  
dcpe Bis(dicyclohexylphosphino)ethane  
dppp 1,3-Bis(diphenylphosphino)propane   91
dppb 1,4-Bis(diphenylphosphino)butane   94
DIOP (S,S)-DIOP (O-isopropylidene-2,3-dihydroxy-1,4-bis(diphenylphosphino)butane)  
Chiraphos 2,3-Bis(diphenylphosphino)butane  
BINAP 2,2'-Bis(diphenylphosphino)-1,1'-binaphthyl   93
Xantphos 4,5-Bis(diphenylphosphino)-9,9-dimethylxanthene   108
DPEphos Bis[(2-diphenylphosphino)phenyl] ether   104
SPANphos 4,4,4',4',6,6'-Hexamethyl-2,2'-spirobichromane-8,8'-diylbis(diphenylphosphane)  
SEGPHOS 4,4'-Bi-1,3-benzodioxole-5,5'-diylbis(diphenylphosphane)  
dppf 1,1'-Bis(diphenylphosphino)ferrocene   99
Me-DuPhos 1,2-Bis(2,5-dimethylphospholano)benzene  
Josiphos (Diphenylphosphino)ferrocenyl-ethyldicyclohexylphosphine1,5-Diaza-3,7-diphosphacyclooctanes  
P2N2 1,5-Diaza-3,7-diphosphacyclooctanes  


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  8. ^ Birkholz, M.-N., Freixa, Z., van Leeuwen, P. W. N. M., "Bite angle effects of diphosphines in C-C and C-X bond forming cross coupling reactions", Chem. Soc. Rev. 2009, vol. 38, 1099.
  9. ^ Zong, J., J. T. Mague, C. M. Kraml, and R. A. Pascal, Jr., A Congested in,in-Diphosphine, Org. Lett. 2013, 15, 2179-2181.
  10. ^ Zong, J., J. T. Mague, and R. A. Pascal, Jr., "Encapsulation of non-hydrogen atoms by in, in-bis (triarylelement)-containing cyclophanes." Tetrahedron, 2017, 73, 455-460.
  11. ^ http://old.iupac.org/reports/provisional/abstract04/RB-prs310804/TableVII-3.04.pdf[bare URL PDF]