Thermochemical and mechanistic studies of electrocatalytic hydrogen production by cobalt complexes containing pendant amines

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Two cobalt(tetraphosphine) complexes [Co(PnC-PPh2 2NPh2)(CH3CN)](BF4) 2 with a tetradentate phosphine ligand (PnC-PPh2 2NPh2 = 1,5-diphenyl-3,7- bis((diphenylphosphino)alkyl)-1,5-diaza-3,7-diphosphacyclooctane; alkyl = (CH2)2, n = 2 (L2); (CH2)3, n = 3 (L3)) have been studied for electrocatalytic hydrogen production using 1:1 [(DMF)H]+:DMF. A turnover frequency (TOF) of 980 s-1 with an overpotential at Ecat/2 of 1210 mV was measured for [Co II(L2)(CH3CN)]2+, and a TOF of 980 s -1 with an overpotential at Ecat/2 of 930 mV was measured for [CoII(L3)(CH3CN)]2+. Addition of water increases the TOF of [CoII(L2)(CH3CN)]2+ to 18,000 s-1. The catalytic wave for each of these complexes occurs at the reduction potential of the corresponding HCoIII complex. Comprehensive thermochemical studies of [CoII(L2)(CH 3CN)]2+ and [CoII(L3)(CH3CN)] 2+ and species derived from them by addition/removal of protons/electrons were carried out using values measured experimentally and calculated using density functional theory (DFT). Notably, HCoI(L2) and HCoI(L3) were found to be remarkably strong hydride donors, with HCoI(L2) being a better hydride donor than BH4 -. Mechanistic studies of these catalysts reveal that H2 formation can occur by protonation of a HCoII intermediate, and that the pendant amines of these complexes facilitate proton delivery to the cobalt center. The rate-limiting step for catalysis is a net intramolecular isomerization of the protonated pendant amine from the nonproductive exoisomer to the productive endo isomer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14391-14403
Number of pages13
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 16 2013


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry

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