The mechanism of aerobic oxidation of aromatic and alkyl aromatic compounds using anthracene and xanthene, respectively, as a model compound was investigated using a phosphovanadomolybdate polyoxometalate, H5PV2Mo10O40, as catalyst under mild, liquid-phase conditions: The polyoxometalate is a soluble analogue of insoluble mixed-metal oxides often used for high-temperature gas-phase heterogeneous oxidation which proceed by a Mars-van Krevelen mechanism. The general purpose of the present investigation was to prove that a Mars-van Krevelen mechanism is possible also in liquid-phase, homogeneous oxidation reactions. First, the oxygen transfer from H5PV2Mo10O40 to the hydrocarbons was studied using various techniques to show that commonly observed liquid-phase oxidation mechanisms, autoxidation, and oxidative nucleophilic substitution were not occurring in this case. Techniques used included (a) use of 18O-labeled molecular oxygen, polyoxometalate, and water; (b) carrying out reactions under anaerobic conditions; (c) performing the reaction with an alternative nucleophile (acetate) or under anhydrous conditions; and (d) determination of the reaction stoichiometry. All of the experiments pointed against autoxidation and oxidative nucleophilic substitution and toward a Mars-van Krevelen mechanism. Second, the mode of activation of the hydrocarbon was determined to be by electron transfer, as opposed to hydrogen atom transfer from the hydrocarbon to the polyoxometalate. Kinetic studies showed that an outer-sphere electron transfer was probable with formation of a donor-acceptor complex. Further studies enabled the isolation and observation of intermediates by ESR and NMR spectroscopy. For anthracene, the immediate result of electron transfer, that is formation of an anthracene radical cation and reduced polyoxometalate, was observed by ESR spectroscopy. The ESR spectrum, together with kinetics experiments, including kinetic isotope experiments and 1H NMR, support a Mars-van Krevelen mechanism in which the rate-determining step is the oxygen-transfer reaction between the polyoxometalate and the intermediate radical cation. Anthraquinone is the only observable reaction product. For xanthene, the radical cation could not be observed. Instead, the initial radical cation undergoes fast additional proton and electron transfer (or hydrogen atom transfer) to yield a stable benzylic cation observable by 1H NMR. Again, kinetics experiments support the notion of an oxygen-transfer rate-determining step between the xanthenyl cation and the polyoxometalate, with formation of xanthen-9-one as the only product. Schemes summarizing the proposed reaction mechanisms are presented.
ASJC Scopus subject areas