Asymmetric hydrogenation is one of the most important catalytic methods for the preparation of optically active compounds. For a long time the range of olefins that could be hydrogenated with high enantiomeric excess was limited to substrates bearing a coordinating group next to the C+C bond. We have found a new class of catalysts, iridium complexes with chiral P, N ligands, that overcome these limitations. For a wide range of unfunctionalized olefins, excellent enantioselectivities could be achieved. Because these catalysts do not require the presence of any particular functional group in the substrate, they considerably broaden the scope of asymmetric hydrogenation. In addition, promising results were also obtained with certain functionalized alkenes, furans, and benzofurans.
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