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Brønsted Acid Scaling Relationships Enable Control Over Product Selectivity from O2 Reduction with a Mononuclear Cobalt Porphyrin Catalyst

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journal contribution
posted on 07.06.2019, 11:42 by Yu-Heng Wang, Patrick E. Schneider, Zachary K. Goldsmith, Biswajit Mondal, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Shannon S. Stahl
The selective reduction of O2, typically with the goal of forming H2O, represents a long-standing challenge in the field of catalysis. Macrocyclic transition-metal complexes, and cobalt porphyrins in particular, have been the focus of extensive study as catalysts for this reaction. Here, we show that the mononuclear Co-tetraarylporphyrin complex, Co­(porOMe) (porOMe = meso-tetra­(4-methoxy­phenyl)­porphyrin), catalyzes either 2e/2H+ or 4e/4H+ reduction of O2 with high selectivity simply by changing the identity of the Brønsted acid in dimethylformamide (DMF). The thermodynamic potentials for O2 reduction to H2O2 or H2O in DMF are determined and exhibit a Nernstian dependence on the acid pKa, while the CoIII/II redox potential is independent of the acid pKa. The reaction product, H2O or H2O2, is defined by the relationship between the thermodynamic potential for O2 reduction to H2O2 and the CoIII/II redox potential: selective H2O2 formation is observed when the CoIII/II potential is below the O2/H2O2 potential, while H2O formation is observed when the CoIII/II potential is above the O2/H2O2 potential. Mechanistic studies reveal that the reactions generating H2O2 and H2O exhibit different rate laws and catalyst resting states, and these differences are manifested as different slopes in linear free energy correlations between the log­(rate) versus pKa and log­(rate) versus effective overpotential for the reactions. This work shows how scaling relationships may be used to control product selectivity, and it provides a mechanistic basis for the pursuit of molecular catalysts that achieve low overpotential reduction of O2 to H2O.