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Unexpected Roles of Triethanolamine in the Photochemical Reduction of CO2 to Formate by Ruthenium Complexes

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journal contribution
posted on 27.01.2020, 16:41 by Renato N. Sampaio, David C. Grills, Dmitry E. Polyansky, David J. Szalda, Etsuko Fujita
A series of 4,4′-dimethyl-2,2′-bipyridyl ruthenium complexes with carbonyl ligands were prepared and studied using a combination of electrochemical and spectroscopic methods with infrared detection to provide structural information on reaction intermediates in the photochemical reduction of CO2 to formate in acetonitrile (CH3CN). An unsaturated 5-coordinate intermediate was characterized, and the hydride-transfer step to CO2 from a singly reduced metal-hydride complex was observed with kinetic resolution. While triethanolamine (TEOA) was expected to act as a proton acceptor to ensure the sacrificial behavior of 1,3-dimethyl-2-phenyl-2,3-dihydro-1H-benzo­[d]­imidazole as an electron donor, time-resolved infrared measurements revealed that about 90% of the photogenerated one-electron reduced complexes undergo unproductive back electron transfer. Furthermore, TEOA showed the ability to capture CO2 from CH3CN solutions to form a zwitterionic alkylcarbonate adduct and was actively engaged in key catalytic steps such as metal-hydride formation, hydride transfer to CO2 to form the bound formate intermediate, and dissociation of formate ion product. Collectively, the data provide an overview of the transient intermediates of Ru­(II) carbonyl complexes and emphasize the importance of considering the participation of TEOA when investigating and proposing catalytic pathways.

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