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Second-Order Biomimicry: In Situ Oxidative Self-Processing Converts Copper(I)/Diamine Precursor into a Highly Active Aerobic Oxidation Catalyst

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journal contribution
posted on 23.02.2017, 14:39 by Scott D. McCann, Jean-Philip Lumb, Bruce A. Arndtsen, Shannon S. Stahl
A homogeneous Cu-based catalyst system consisting of [Cu­(MeCN)4]­PF6, N,N′-di-tert-butylethylenediamine (DBED), and p-(N,N-dimethylamino)­pyridine (DMAP) mediates efficient aerobic oxidation of alcohols. Mechanistic study of this reaction shows that the catalyst undergoes an in situ oxidative self-processing step, resulting in conversion of DBED into a nitroxyl that serves as an efficient cocatalyst for aerobic alcohol oxidation. Insights into this behavior are gained from kinetic studies, which reveal an induction period at the beginning of the reaction that correlates with the oxidative self-processing step, EPR spectroscopic analysis of the catalytic reaction mixture, which shows the buildup of the organic nitroxyl species during steady state turnover, and independent synthesis of oxygenated DBED derivatives, which are shown to serve as effective cocatalysts and eliminate the induction period in the reaction. The overall mechanism bears considerable resemblance to enzymatic reactivity. Most notable is the “oxygenase”-type self-processing step that mirrors generation of catalytic cofactors in enzymes via post-translational modification of amino acid side chains. This higher-order function within a synthetic catalyst system presents new opportunities for the discovery and development of biomimetic catalysts.