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Oxygen Atom Transfer as an Alternative Pathway for Oxygen–Oxygen Bond Formation

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journal contribution
posted on 23.04.2020, 17:33 by Mehmed Z. Ertem, Javier J. Concepcion
Fundamental understanding of catalytic mechanisms of water oxidation is a prerequisite for the design and development of efficient and rugged water oxidation catalysts. In this work, a detailed mechanistic study of the water oxidation mechanism of the [RuII(npm)­(4-pic)2(H2O)]2+ (npm = 4-t-butyl-2,6-di­(1′,8′-naphthyrid-2′-yl)-pyridine, pic = 4-picoline) complex, [RuII–OH2]2+, reveals oxygen atom transfer from highly reactive ruthenium oxo intermediates to noncoordinating nitrogen atoms of the ligand as a novel route for oxygen evolution via storage of oxidizing equivalents as N-oxide groups on the ligand framework. Theoretical calculations show that the initial complex, [RuII–OH2]2+, is transformed to a di-N-oxide [RuII–OH2,(-NO)2]2+ complex upon oxidation via facile OAT steps from RuV=O species and that [RuV=O,(-NO)2]3+ represents the most likely reactive species for the critical O–O bond formation. Furthermore, a new stepwise mechanism for oxygen evolution is introduced, which proceeds via coupling of Ru–O and N–O moieties producing a peroxide intermediate, [RuV–OO–N,(-NO)]3+, and can compete with the water nucleophilic attack pathway for the oxygen evolution reaction. In this mechanism, a water molecule is oxidatively activated to an “oxygen atom” which is “stored” at a noncoordinating pyridine. Oxidative activation of a second water molecule, facilitated by coordination expansion of the intermediate N-oxide, generates the second oxygen atom required to produce a dioxygen molecule.