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Metalloporphyrins as Catalytic Models for Studying Hydrogen and Oxygen Evolution and Oxygen Reduction Reactions

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posted on 2022-02-22, 19:10 authored by Xialiang Li, Haitao Lei, Lisi Xie, Ni Wang, Wei Zhang, Rui Cao
ConspectusThe hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), oxygen evolution reaction (OER), and oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) are involved in biological and artificial energy conversions. H–H and O–O bond formation/cleavage are essential steps in these reactions. In nature, intermediates involved in the H–H and O–O bond formation/cleavage are highly reactive and short-lived, making their identification and investigation difficult. In artificial catalysis, the realization of these reactions at considerable rates and close to their thermodynamic reaction equilibria remains a challenge. Therefore, the elucidation of the reaction mechanisms and structure–function relationships is of fundamental significance to understand these reactions and to develop catalysts.This Account describes our recent investigations on catalytic HER, OER, and ORR with metalloporphyrins and derivatives. Metalloporphyrins are used in nature for light harvesting, energy conversion, electron transfer, O2 activation, and peroxide degradation. Synthetic metal porphyrin complexes are shown to be active for these reactions. We focused on exploring metalloporphyrins to study reaction mechanisms and structure–function relationships because they have stable and tunable structures and characteristic spectroscopic properties.For HER, we identified three H–H bond formation mechanisms and established the correlation between these processes and metal hydride electronic structures. Importantly, we provided direct experimental evidence for the bimetallic homolytic H–H bond formation mechanism by using sterically bulky porphyrins. Homolytic HER has been long proposed but rarely verified because the coupling of active hydride intermediates occurs spontaneously and quickly, making their detection challenging. By blocking the bimolecular mechanism through steric effects, we stabilized and characterized the NiIII–H intermediate and verified homolytic HER by comparing the reaction behaviors of Ni porphyrins with and without steric effects. We therefore provided an unprecedented example to control homolytic versus heterolytic HER mechanisms through tuning steric effects of molecular catalysts.For the OER, the water nucleophilic attack (WNA) on high-valent terminal Mn-oxo has been proposed for the O–O bond formation in natural and artificial water oxidation. By using Mn tris­(pentafluorophenyl)­corrole, we identified MnV(O) and MnIV-peroxo intermediates in chemical and electrochemical OER and provided direct experimental evidence for the Mn-based WNA mechanism. Moreover, we demonstrated several catalyst design strategies to enhance the WNA rate, including the pioneering use of protective axial ligands. By studying Cu porphyrins, we proposed a bimolecular coupling mechanism between two metal-hydroxide radicals to form O–O bonds. Note that late-transition metals do not likely form terminal metal-oxo/oxyl.For the ORR, we presented several strategies to improve activity and selectivity, including providing rapid electron transfer, using electron-donating axial ligands, introducing hydrogen-bonding interactions, constructing dinuclear cooperation, and employing porphyrin-support domino catalysis. Importantly, we used Co porphyrin atropisomers to realize both two-electron and four-electron ORR, representing an unparalleled example to control ORR selectivity by tuning only steric effects without modifying molecular and/or electronic structures.Lastly, we developed several strategies to graft metalloporphyrins on various electrode materials through different covalent bonds. The molecular-engineered materials exhibit boosted electrocatalytic performance, highlighting promising applications of molecular electrocatalysis. Taken together, this Account demonstrates the benefits of exploring metalloporphyrins for the HER, OER, and ORR. The knowledge learned herein is valuable for the development of porphyrin-based catalysts and also other molecular and material catalysts for small molecule activation reactions.

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