Optical p<i>K</i><sub>a</sub> Control in a Bifunctional Iridium Complex

There are few ways to switch a catalyst’s reactivity on or off, or change its selectivity, with external radiation; many of these involve photochemical activation of a catalyst. In the case of homogeneous late-transition-metal catalysts, the metal complex itself is frequently the chromophore involved in such reactivity switching. We show here a base-pendant ligand–metal bifunctional scaffold wherein a photobase, a compound that becomes more basic in the excited state (p<i>K</i><sub>a</sub> < p<i>K</i><sub>a</sub>*), is used to switch the proton acceptor ability on an active site of the complex. The system differs from those with metal-centered chromophores, because the photobase operates independently of the metal. While excellent progress has been made in photoacid chemistry, neither a photoacid nor a photobase has been designed into the structure of a transition-metal catalyst where the metal is not part of the chromophore. We find that quinoline is an efficient photobase that preserves its unique properties in the close proximity of an iridium center: the efficacy of the photobase (9.3 < p<i>K</i><sub>a</sub>* < 12.4) in the iridium complex is unhindered relative to the free quinoline. We apply this notion to successful photodriven deprotonation of an aliphatic alcohol, thus showing the first case of metal-orthogonal optical p<i>K</i><sub>a</sub> control in a transition-metal complex.