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J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Nov 28;134(47):19409-24. doi: 10.1021/ja307413x. Epub 2012 Nov 13.

Proton delivery and removal in [Ni(P(R)2N(R')2)2]2+ hydrogen production and oxidation catalysts.

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  • 1Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, K2-57, Richland, Washington 99352, USA.

Abstract

To examine the role of proton delivery and removal in the electrocatalytic oxidation and production of hydrogen by [Ni(P(R)(2)N(R')(2))(2)](2+) (where P(R)(2)N(R')(2) is 1,5-R'-3,7-R-1,5-diaza-3,7-diphosphacyclooctane), we report experimental and theoretical studies of the intermolecular proton exchange reactions underlying the isomerization of [Ni(P(Cy)(2)N(Bn)(2)H)(2)](2+) (Cy = cyclohexyl, Bn = benzyl) species formed during the oxidation of H(2) by [Ni(II)(P(Cy)(2)N(Bn)(2))(2)](2+) or the protonation of [Ni(0)(P(Cy)(2)N(Bn)(2))(2)]. Three protonated isomers are formed (endo/endo, endo/exo, or exo/exo), which differ in the position of the N-H bond's with respect to nickel. The endo/endo isomer is the most productive isomer due to the two protons being sufficiently close to the nickel to proceed readily to the transition state to form/cleave H(2). Therefore, the rate of isomerization of the endo/exo or exo/exo isomers to generate the endo/endo isomer can have an important impact on catalytic rates. We have found that the rate of isomerization is limited by proton removal from, or delivery to, the complex. In particular, the endo position is more sterically hindered than the exo position; therefore, protonation exo to the metal is kinetically favored over endo protonation, which leads to less catalytically productive pathways. In hydrogen oxidation, deprotonation of the sterically hindered endo position by an external base may lead to slow catalytic turnover. For hydrogen production catalysts, the limited accessibility of the endo position can result in the preferential formation of the exo protonated isomers, which must undergo one or more isomerization steps to generate the catalytically productive endo protonated isomer. The results of these studies highlight the importance of precise proton delivery, and the mechanistic details described herein will be used to guide future catalyst design.

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