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J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Aug 8;134(31):13082-8. doi: 10.1021/ja304513t. Epub 2012 Jul 30.

Catalysis in a porous molecular capsule: activation by regulated access to sixty metal centers spanning a truncated icosahedron.

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Department of Chemistry and the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev , Beer Sheva, 84105, Israel.


The 30 cationic {Mo(V)2O4(acetate)}(+) units linking 12 negatively charged pentagonal "ligands," {(Mo(VI))Mo(VI)5O21(H2O)6}(6-) of the porous metal-oxide capsule, [{Mo(VI)6O21(H2O)6}12{Mo(V)2O4(acetate)}30](42-) provide active sites for catalytic transformations of organic "guests". This is demonstrated using a well-behaved model reaction, the fully reversible cleavage and formation of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) under mild conditions in water. Five independent lines of evidence demonstrate that reactions of the MTBE guests occur in the ca. 6 × 10(3) Å(3) interior of the spherical capsule. The Mo atoms of the {Mo(V)2O4(acetate)}(+) linkers--spanning an ca. 3-nm truncated icosahedron--are sterically accessible to substrate, and controlled removal of their internally bound acetate ligands generates catalytically active {Mo(V)2O4(H2O)2}(2+) units with labile water ligands, and Lewis- and Brønsted-acid properties. The activity of these units is demonstrating by kinetic data that reveal a first-order dependence of MTBE cleavage rates on the number of acetate-free {Mo(V)2O4(H2O)2}(2+) linkers. DFT calculations point to a pathway involving both Mo(V) centers, and the intermediacy of isobutene in both forward and reverse reactions. A plausible catalytic cycle--satisfying microscopic reversibility--is supported by activation parameters for MTBE cleavage, deuterium and oxygen-18 labeling studies, and by reactions of deliberately added isobutene and of a water-soluble isobutene analog. More generally, pore-restricted encapsulation, ligand-regulated access to multiple structurally integral metal-centers, and options for modifying the microenvironment within this new type of nanoreactor, suggest numerous additional transformations of organic substrates by this and related molybdenum-oxide based capsules.


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