Conventional oxidations of organic compounds formally transfer hydrogen atoms from the substrate to an acceptor molecule such as oxygen, a metal oxide, or a sacrificial olefin. In acceptorless dehydrogenation (AD) reactions, catalytic scission of C-H, N-H, and/or O-H bonds liberates hydrogen gas with no need for a stoichiometric oxidant, thereby providing efficient, nonpolluting activation of substrates. In addition, the hydrogen gas is valuable in itself as a high-energy, clean fuel. Here, we review AD reactions selectively catalyzed by transition metal complexes, as well as related transformations that rely on intermediates derived from reversible dehydrogenation. We delineate the methodologies evolving from this recent concept and highlight the effect of these reactions on chemical synthesis.
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