Photocatalytic Conversion of Nitrobenzene to Aniline through Sequential Proton-Coupled One-Electron Transfers from a Cadmium Sulfide Quantum Dot

Stephen C. Jensen, Stephanie Bettis Homan, Emily A Weiss

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This paper describes the use of cadmium sulfide quantum dots (CdS QDs) as visible-light photocatalysts for the reduction of nitrobenzene to aniline through six sequential photoinduced, proton-coupled electron transfers. At pH 3.6-4.3, the internal quantum yield of photons-to-reducing electrons is 37.1% over 54 h of illumination, with no apparent decrease in catalyst activity. Monitoring of the QD exciton by transient absorption reveals that, for each step in the catalytic cycle, the sacrificial reductant, 3-mercaptopropionic acid, scavenges the excitonic hole in ∼5 ps to form QD•-; electron transfer to nitrobenzene or the intermediates nitrosobenzene and phenylhydroxylamine then occurs on the nanosecond time scale. The rate constants for the single-electron transfer reactions are correlated with the driving forces for the corresponding proton-coupled electron transfers. This result suggests, but does not prove, that electron transfer, not proton transfer, is rate-limiting for these reactions. Nuclear magnetic resonance analysis of the QD-molecule systems shows that the photoproduct aniline, left unprotonated, serves as a poison for the QD catalyst by adsorbing to its surface. Performing the reaction at an acidic pH not only encourages aniline to desorb but also increases the probability of protonated intermediates; the latter effect probably ensures that recruitment of protons is not rate-limiting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1591-1600
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Feb 17 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Catalysis
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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