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Intramolecular Hydrogen Bonding Facilitates Electrocatalytic Reduction of Nitrite in Aqueous Solutions

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journal contribution
posted on 28.06.2019, 12:38 by Song Xu, Hyuk-Yong Kwon, Daniel C. Ashley, Chun-Hsing Chen, Elena Jakubikova, Jeremy M. Smith
This work reports a combined experimental and computational mechanistic investigation into the electrocatalytic reduction of nitrite to ammonia by a cobalt macrocycle in an aqueous solution. In the presence of a nitrite substrate, the Co­(III) precatalyst, [Co­(DIM)­(NO2)2]+ (DIM = 2,3-dimethyl-1,4,8,11-tetraazacyclotetradeca-1,3-diene), is formed in situ. Cyclic voltammetry and density functional theory (DFT) calculations show that this complex is reduced by two electrons, the first of which is coupled with nitrite ligand loss, to provide the active catalyst. Experimental observations suggest that the key N–O bond cleavage step is facilitated by intramolecular proton transfer from an amine group of the macrocycle to a nitro ligand, as supported by modeling several potential reaction pathways with DFT. These results provide insights into how the combination of a redox active ligand and first-row transition metal can facilitate the multiproton/electron process of nitrite reduction.

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