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J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Apr 20;133(15):5861-72. doi: 10.1021/ja109755f. Epub 2011 Mar 25.

[Ni(P(Ph)2N(C6H4X)2)2]2+ complexes as electrocatalysts for H2 production: effect of substituents, acids, and water on catalytic rates.

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  • 1Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, Chemical and Materials Sciences Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, K2-57, Richland, Washington 99352, United States.


A series of mononuclear nickel(II) bis(diphosphine) complexes [Ni(P(Ph)(2)N(C6H4X)(2))(2)](BF(4))(2) (P(Ph)(2)N(C6H4X)(2) = 1,5-di(para-X-phenyl)-3,7-diphenyl-1,5-diaza-3,7-diphosphacyclooctane; X = OMe, Me, CH(2)P(O)(OEt)(2), Br, and CF(3)) have been synthesized and characterized. X-ray diffraction studies reveal that [Ni(P(Ph)(2)N(C6H4Me)(2))(2)](BF(4))(2) and [Ni(P(Ph)(2)N(C6H4OMe)(2))(2)](BF(4))(2) are tetracoordinate with distorted square planar geometries. The Ni(II/I) and Ni(I/0) redox couples of each complex are electrochemically reversible in acetonitrile with potentials that are increasingly cathodic as the electron-donating character of X is increased. Each of these complexes is an efficient electrocatalyst for hydrogen production at the potential of the Ni(II/I) couple. The catalytic rates generally increase as the electron-donating character of X is decreased, and this electronic effect results in the favorable but unusual situation of obtaining higher catalytic rates as overpotentials are decreased. Catalytic studies using acids with a range of pK(a) values reveal that turnover frequencies do not correlate with substrate acid pK(a) values but are highly dependent on the acid structure, with this effect being related to substrate size. Addition of water is shown to dramatically increase catalytic rates for all catalysts. With [Ni(P(Ph)(2)N(C6H4CH2P(O)(OEt)2)(2))(2)](BF(4))(2) using [(DMF)H](+)OTf(-) as the acid and with added water, a turnover frequency of 1850 s(-1) was obtained.

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