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Computational studies explain the importance of two different substituents on the chelating bis(amido) ligand for transfer hydrogenation by bifunctional Cp*Rh(III) catalysts

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DateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jun 2014
DatePublished (current) - 14 Jul 2014
Issue number13
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)3433-3442
Early online date27/06/14
Original languageEnglish


A computational approach (DFT-B3PW91) is used to address previous experimental studies (Chem. Commun. 2009, 6801) that showed that transfer hydrogenation of a cyclic imine by Et3N·HCO2H in dichloromethane catalyzed by 16-electron bifunctional Cp*Rh III(XNC6H4NX') is faster when XNC 6H4NX' = TsNC6H4NH than when XNC6H4NX' = HNC6H4NH or TsNC 6H4NTs (Cp* = η5-C5Me 5, Ts = toluenesulfonyl). The computational study also considers the role of the formate complex observed experimentally at low temperature. Using a model of the experimental complex in which Cp* is replaced by Cp and Ts by benzenesulfonyl (Bs), the calculations for the systems in gas phase reveal that dehydrogenation of formic acid generates CpRhIIIH(XNC 6H4NX'H) via an outer-sphere mechanism. The 16-electron Rh complex + formic acid are shown to be at equilibrium with the formate complex, but the latter lies outside the pathway for dehydrogenation. The calculations reproduce the experimental observation that the transfer hydrogenation reaction is fastest for the nonsymmetrically substituted complex CpRh III(XNC6H4NX') (X = Bs and X' = H). The effect of the linker between the two N atoms on the pathway is also considered. The Gibbs energy barrier for dehydrogenation of formic acid is calculated to be much lower for CpRhIII(XNCHPhCHPhNX') than for CpRh III(XNC6H4NX') for all combinations of X and X'. The energy barrier for hydrogenation of the imine by the rhodium hydride complex is much higher than the barrier for hydride transfer to the corresponding iminium ion, in agreement with mechanisms proposed for related systems on the basis of experimental data. Interpretation of the results by MO and NBO analyses shows that the most reactive catalyst for dehydrogenation of formic acid contains a localized Rh-NH π-bond that is associated with the shortest Rh-N distance in the corresponding 16-electron complex. The asymmetric complex CpRhIII(BsNC6H4NH) is shown to generate a good bifunctional catalyst for transfer hydrogenation because it combines an electrophilic metal center and a nucleophilic NH group.

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