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Title: Mechanism-Based Design of Green Oxidation Catalysts

In modern era of scarce resources, developing chemical processes that can eventually generate useful materials and fuels from readily available, simple, cheap, renewable starting materials is of paramount importance. Small molecules, such as dioxygen, dinitrogen, water, or carbon dioxide, can be viewed as ideal sources of oxygen, nitrogen, or carbon atoms in synthetic applications. Living organisms perfected the art of utilizing small molecules in biosynthesis and in generating energy; photosynthesis, which couples carbohydrate synthesis from carbon dioxide with photocatalytic water splitting, is but one impressive example of possible catalytic processes. Small molecule activation in synthetic systems remains challenging, and current efforts are focused on developing catalytic reactions that can convert small molecules into useful building blocks for generating more complicated organic molecules, including fuels. Modeling nature is attractive in many respects, including the possibility to use non-toxic, earth-abundant metals in catalysis. Specific systems investigated in our work include biomimetic catalytic oxidations with dioxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and related oxygen atom donors. More recently, a new direction was been also pursued in the group, fixation of carbon dioxide with transition metal complexes. Mechanistic understanding of biomimetic metal-catalyzed oxidations is critical for the design of functional models of metalloenzymes, and ultimately for themore » rational synthesis of useful, selective and efficient oxidation catalysts utilizing dioxygen and hydrogen peroxide as terminal oxidants. All iron oxidases and oxygenases (both mononuclear and dinuclear) utilize metal-centered intermediates as reactive species in selective substrate oxidation. In contrast, free radical pathways (Fenton chemistry) are common for traditional inorganic iron compounds, producing hydroxyl radicals as very active, non-selective oxidants. Recent developments, however, changed this situation. Growing families of synthetic iron complexes that resemble active sites of metalloenzymes produce metal-based intermediates (rather than hydroxyl radicals) in reactions with oxygen donors. These complexes are very promising for selective oxygen and peroxide activation. In order to understand the mechanisms of metal-based small molecule activation, kinetically competent metal-oxygen intermediates must be identified. One of the grand challenges identified by the Department of Energy workshop "Catalysis for Energy" is understanding mechanisms and dynamics of catalyzed reactions. The research summarized herein focuses on detailed characterization of the formation and reactivity of various iron-peroxo- and iron-oxo intermediates that are involved in catalysis. Rates of rapid reactions were studied at low temperatures by a specialized technique termed cryogenic stopped-flow spectrophotometry. These measurements identified reaction conditions which favor the formation of catalytically competent oxidants. Chemical structures of reactive complexes was determined, and new, efficient catalysts for hydrocarbon oxidation were synthesized. Importantly, these catalysts are selective, they promote oxidation of hydrocarbons at a specific site. The catalysts are also efficient and robust, hundreds of cycles of substrate oxidation occur within minutes at room temperature. Furthermore, they enable utilization of environmentally friendly oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide, which produces water as the only byproduct. Mechanistic insights uncovered the role of various acid-containing additives in catalytic oxidations. Proton delivery to the active catalytic sites facilitated oxidations, similarly to the catalytic pathways in metal-containing enzymes. Under certain conditions, two metals in one complex can act in concert, modeling the reactivity of a bacterial enzyme which converts methane into methanol. In related studies, a family of nickel complexes that react with carbon dioxide at the rates comparable to enzyme carbonic anhydrase, was discovered. Sequestration and chemical utilization of carbon dioxide is one of the important goals in energy production.« less
  1. Tufts Univ., Medford, MA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Tufts Univ., Medford, MA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
37 INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL, AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY; Oxidation Catalysis, Hydrocarbon functionalization, Environmentally friendly reagents, earth abundant metals, bioinspired catalysis, oxygen activation, reaction mechanisms, kinetics