Phenolate Hydroxylation in a Bis(μ-oxo)dicopper(III) Complex: Lessons from the Guanidine/Amine Series

A new hybrid permethylated-amine-guanidine ligand based on a 1,3-propanediamine backbone (2L) and its Cu−O2 chemistry is reported. [(2L)CuI(MeCN)]1+ complex readily oxygenates at low temperatures in polar aprotic solvents to form a bis(μ-oxo)dicopper(III) (O) species (2b), similar to the parent bis-guanidine ligand complex (1b) and permethylated-diamine ligand complex (3b). UV−vis and X-ray absorption spectroscopy experiments confirm this assignment of 2b as an O species, and full formation of the 2:1 Cu−O2 complex is demonstrated by an optical titration with ferrocene-monocarboxylic acid (FcCOOH). The UV−vis spectra of 1b and 2b with guanidine ligation show low-intensity visible features assigned as guanidine π → Cu2O2 core transitions by time-dependent density functional theory (TD-DFT) calculations. Comparison of the reactivity among the three related complexes (1b3b) with phenolate at 195 K is particularly insightful as only 2b hydroxylates 2,4-di-tert-butylphenolate to yield 3,5-di-tert-butylcatecholate (>95% yield) with the oxygen atom derived from O2, reminiscent of tyrosinase reactivity. 1b is unreactive, while 3b yields the C−C radical-coupled bis-phenol product. Attenuated outer-sphere oxidative strength of the O complexes and increased phenolate accessibility to the Cu2O2 core are attributes that correlate with phenolate hydroxylation reactivity observed in 2b. The comparative low-temperature reactivity of 1b3b with FcCOOH (O−H BDE 71 kcal mol−1) to form the two-electron, two-proton reduced bis(μ-hydroxo)dicopper(II,II) complex is quantitative and presumably precedes through two sequential proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) steps. Optical titrations along with DFT calculations support that the reduced complexes formed in the first step are more powerful oxidants than the parent O complexes. These mechanistic insights aid in understanding the phenol to bis-phenol reactivity exhibited by 2b and 3b.