Rational design and synthesis of highly active pincer-iridium catalysts for alkane dehydrogenation

Sabuj Kundu, Yuriy Choliy, Gao Zhuo, Ritu Ahuja, Thomas J. Emge, Ralf Warmuth, Maurice Brookhart, Karsten Krogh-Jespersen, Alan S. Goldman

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114 Scopus citations


"PCP" -pincer-ligated iridium complexes have been found to be highly effective catalysts for the dehydrogenation of alkanes. We report a computational and experimental study of the effect on catalytic activity resulting from systematically varying steric crowding by the substitution of methyl groups for the phosphino tert-butyl groups of ( R4PCP)Ir ( R4PCP = κ 3-C 6H 3-2,6-(CH 2PR 2) 2; R = 1Bu or Me). DFT calculations for ( R4PCP)Ir species (R 4 = tBu 4 or tBu 3Me) indicate that the ratedetermining step in the n-alkane/1-alkene transfer dehydrogenation cycle is β-H elimination by ( R4PCP)Ir(n-alkyl)(H). It is calculated that the transition state for this step is ca. 10 kcal/mol lower for ( tBu3MePCP)Ir than for ( tBu4PCP)Ir (relative to the corresponding free ( R4PCP)Ir). However, this catalytically favorable effect is calculated to be partially offset by the strong binding of 1-alkene to ( tBu3MePCP)Ir in the resting state, so the overall barrier is thus lower by only ca. 4 kcal/mol. Further Me-for- tBu substitutions have a smaller effect on the transition states, and the calculated energy of the olefin-bound resting states is lowered by comparable amounts; therefore these additional substitutions are predicted to have little overall favorable effect on catalytic rates. ( tBu3MePCP)IrH 4 has been synthesized and isolated, and its catalytic activity has been investigated. It is indeed found to be a more active catalyst precursor than ( tBu4PCP)IrH 4 for alkane transfer dehydrogenation. ( tBu2Me2PCP) IrH 4 was also synthesized and as a catalyst precursor is found to afford somewhat lower activity than ( tBu3MePCP)IrH 4. However, synthetic precursors of ( tBu2Me2PCP)IrH 4 tended to yield dinuclear clusters, while complex mixtures were observed during catalysis that were not amenable to characterization. It is therefore not clear if the lesser catalytic activity of ( tBu2Me2PCP)Ir vs ( tBu3MePCP)Ir derivatives is due to the energetics of the actual catalytic cycle or due to deactivation of this catalyst via the facile formation of clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5432-5444
Number of pages13
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 28 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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