Unexpected Roles of Triethanolamine in the Photochemical Reduction of CO2 to Formate by Ruthenium Complexes

Renato N. Sampaio, David C. Grills, Dmitry E. Polyansky, David J. Szalda, Etsuko Fujita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


A series of 4,4′-dimethyl-2,2′-bipyridyl ruthenium complexes with carbonyl ligands were prepared and studied using a combination of electrochemical and spectroscopic methods with infrared detection to provide structural information on reaction intermediates in the photochemical reduction of CO2 to formate in acetonitrile (CH3CN). An unsaturated 5-coordinate intermediate was characterized, and the hydride-transfer step to CO2 from a singly reduced metal-hydride complex was observed with kinetic resolution. While triethanolamine (TEOA) was expected to act as a proton acceptor to ensure the sacrificial behavior of 1,3-dimethyl-2-phenyl-2,3-dihydro-1H-benzo[d]imidazole as an electron donor, time-resolved infrared measurements revealed that about 90% of the photogenerated one-electron reduced complexes undergo unproductive back electron transfer. Furthermore, TEOA showed the ability to capture CO2 from CH3CN solutions to form a zwitterionic alkylcarbonate adduct and was actively engaged in key catalytic steps such as metal-hydride formation, hydride transfer to CO2 to form the bound formate intermediate, and dissociation of formate ion product. Collectively, the data provide an overview of the transient intermediates of Ru(II) carbonyl complexes and emphasize the importance of considering the participation of TEOA when investigating and proposing catalytic pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2413-2428
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Feb 5 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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