Mechanism of the Formation of Carboxylate from Alcohols and Water Catalyzed by a Bipyridine-Based Ruthenium Complex: A Computational Study

2014-01-08T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Haixia Li Michael B. Hall
The catalytic mechanism for oxidizing alcohols to carboxylate in basic aqueous solution by the bipyridine-based ruthenium complex 2 (BIPY-PNN)­Ru­(H)­(Cl)­(CO) (Nat. Chem. 2013, 5, 122) is investigated by density functional theory (DFT) with the ωB97X-D functional. Using water as the oxygen donor with liberation of dihydrogen represents a safe and clean process for such oxidations. Under NaOH, the active catalyst is 3 (BIPY-PNN)­Ru­(H)­(CO). Four steps are involved: dehydrogenation of alcohol to aldehyde (Step 1); coupling of aldehyde and water to form the gem-diol (Step 2); dehydrogenation of gem-diol to carboxylic acid (Step 3); and deprotonation of carboxylic acid to carboxylate anion under base (Step 4). The dehydrogenations of alcohol (Step 1) and gem-diol (Step 3) prefer the double hydrogen transfer mechanism to the β-H elimination mechanism. The coupling of aldehyde and water (Step 2) proceeds through cleavage of water by catalyst 3 followed by concerted hydroxyl and hydrogen transfer to the aldehyde. The formation of the carboxylate anion occurs via direct deprotonation of the carboxylic acid under base (Step 4), while in the absence of base a stable carboxylic acid-addition complex 6 was formed. Added base was found to play important roles in the generation of catalyst 3 from both the stable carboxylic acid-addition complex 6 and its chloride precursor complex 2. The chemoselectivity for the formation of carboxylic acid rather than ester is ascribed to the favorable cleavage of water and the subsequent generation of the stable carboxylate anion that leads to carboxylic acid upon acidification.