Mechanistic Roles of Metal- and Ligand-Protonated Species in Hydrogen Evolution with [Cp*Rh] Complexes

07 June 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Protonation reactions involving organometallic complexes are ubiquitous in redox chemistry and often result in the generation of reactive metal hydrides. However, some organometallic species supported by η5-pentamethylcyclopentadienyl (Cp*) ligands have recently been shown to undergo ligand-centered protonation by direct proton transfer from acids or tautomerization of metal hydrides, resulting in the generation of complexes bearing the uncommon η4-cyclopentadiene (Cp*H) ligand. Here, time-resolved pulse radiolysis (PR) and stopped-flow spectroscopic studies have been applied to examine the kinetics and atomistic details involved in the elementary electron- and proton-transfer steps leading to complexes ligated by Cp*H, using Cp*Rh(bpy) as a molecular model (where bpy is 2,2′-bipyridyl). Stopped-flow measurements coupled with infrared and UV-visible detection reveal that the sole product of initial protonation of Cp*Rh(bpy) is [Cp*Rh(H)(bpy)]+, an elusive hydride complex that has spectroscopically and kinetically characterized here for the first time. Tautomerization of the hydride leads to the clean formation of [(Cp*H)Rh(bpy)]+. Variable-temperature and isotopic labeling experiments further confirm this assignment, providing experimental activation parameters and mechanistic insight into metal-mediated hydride-to-proton tautomerism. Spectroscopic monitoring of the second proton transfer event reveals both the hydride and related Cp*H complex can be involved in further reactivity, showing that [(Cp*H)Rh] is not necessarily an off-cycle intermediate, but, instead, depending on the strength of the acid used to drive catalysis, an active participant in hydrogen evolution. Identification of the mechanistic roles of the protonated intermediates in the catalysis studied here will inform design of new catalytic systems supported by non-innocent cyclopentadienyl-type ligands.


redox chemistry
pulse radiolysis

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Supporting information document

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