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N-Heterocyclic Carbene-Like Catalysis by a Metal–Organic Framework Material

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journal contribution
posted on 20.02.2016 by Marianne B. Lalonde, Omar K. Farha, Karl A. Scheidt, Joseph T. Hupp
Metal imidazolates, an important class of constructs in metal–organic framework chemistry, are shown here to be precursors to N-heterocyclic carbene-like catalysts. By using n-butyl lithium to deprotonate tripodal imidazolate framework-1 (TIF-1), N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) sites can be exposed. These sites are found to be remarkably competent as Brønsted-base-type NHC catalysts. An α,β-unsaturated ketone was converted to the corresponding benzyl ether with benzyl alcohol at a faster rate and in higher yield than with a traditional homogeneous NHC catalyst (1,3-bis-(2,4,6-trimethylphenyl)­imidazole)), despite lower overall loading. Varying the size of the alcohol in the conjugate addition reaction yielded no change in reaction rate, even when the size of the alcohol exceeded the diameter of the MOF pores, suggesting that catalysis occurs exclusively on the surface of the MOF crystals, as opposed to within the framework pores.