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How Do Ring Size and π‑Donating Thiolate Ligands Affect Redox-Active, α‑Imino‑N‑heterocycle Ligand Activation?

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journal contribution
posted on 07.02.2018, 16:11 by Benjamin K. Leipzig, Julian A. Rees, Joanna K. Kowalska, Roslyn M. Theisen, Matjaž Kavčič, Penny Chaau Yan Poon, Werner Kaminsky, Serena DeBeer, Eckhard Bill, Julie A. Kovacs
Considerable effort has been devoted to the development of first-row transition-metal catalysts containing redox-active imino-pyridine ligands that are capable of storing multiple reducing equivalents. This property allows abundant and inexpensive first-row transition metals, which favor sequential one-electron redox processes, to function as competent catalysts in the concerted two-electron reduction of substrates. Herein we report the syntheses and characterization of a series of iron complexes that contain both π-donating thiolate and π-accepting (α-imino)-N-heterocycle redox-active ligands, with progressively larger N-heterocycle rings (imidazole, pyridine, and quinoline). A cooperative interaction between these complementary redox-active ligands is shown to dictate the properties of these complexes. Unusually intense charge-transfer (CT) bands, and intraligand metrical parameters, reminiscent of a reduced (α-imino)-N-heterocycle ligand (L•–), initially suggested that the electron-donating thiolate had reduced the N-heterocycle. Sulfur K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopic (XAS) data, however, provides evidence for direct communication, via backbonding, between the thiolate sulfur and the formally orthogonal (α-imino)-N-heterocycle ligand π*-orbitals. DFT calculations provide evidence for extensive delocalization of bonds over the sulfur, iron, and (α-imino)-N-heterocycle, and TD-DFT shows that the intense optical CT bands involve transitions between a mixed Fe/S donor, and (α-imino)-N-heterocycle π*-acceptor orbital. The energies and intensities of the optical and S K-edge pre-edge XAS transitions are shown to correlate with N-heterocycle ring size, as do the redox potentials. When the thiolate is replaced with a thioether, or when the low-spin S = 0 Fe­(II) is replaced with a high-spin S = 3/2 Co­(II), the N-heterocycle ligand metrical parameters and electronic structure do not change relative to the neutral L0 ligand. With respect to the development of future catalysts containing redox-active ligands, the energy cost of storing reducing equivalents is shown to be lowest when a quinoline, as opposed to imidazole or pyridine, is incorporated into the ligand backbone of the corresponding Fe complex.