Interconversion of CO2 and formic acid by bio-inspired Ir complexes with pendent bases

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Recent investigations of the interconversion of CO2 and formic acid using Ru, Ir and Fe complexes are summarized in this review. During the past several years, both the reaction rates and catalyst stabilities have been significantly improved. Remarkably, the interconversion (i.e., reversibility) has also been achieved under mild conditions in environmentally benign water solvent by slightly changing the pH of the aqueous solution. Only a few catalysts seem to reflect a bio-inspired design such as the use of proton responsive ligands, ligands with pendent bases or acids for a second-coordination-sphere interaction, electroresponsive ligands, and/or ligands having a hydrogen bonding function with a solvent molecule or an added reagent. The most successful of these is an iridiumdinuclear complex catalyst that at least has the first three of these characteristics associated with its bridging ligand. By utilizing an acid/base equilibrium for proton removal, the ligand becomes a strong electron donor, resulting in Ir(I) character with a vacant coordination site at each metal center in slightly basic solution. Complemented by DFT calculations, kinetic studies of the rates of formate production using a related family of Ir complexes with and without such functions on the ligand reveal that the rate-determining step for the CO 2 hydrogenation is likely to be H2 addition through heterolytic cleavage involving a "proton relay" through the pendent base. The dehydrogenation of formic acid, owing to the proton responsive ligands changing character under slightly acidic pH conditions, is likely to occur by a mechanism with a different rate-determining step. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Metals in Bioenergetics and Biomimetics Systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1038
Number of pages8
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number8-9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Bio-inspired catalysts
  • Dehydrogenation
  • Formic acid
  • Ir complexes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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