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Controlling chirality at an osmium centre

Chirality is the concept of non-superimposable mirror images. A simple example of chiral objects are our hands, and in chemistry, molecules are chiral if they have a stereogenic (or asymmetric) centre. Like our hands when it comes to writing or dextrous tasks, chiral compounds are ubiquitous in chemistry, where often only one enantiomer (a chiral isomer) is selective for binding or reactivity. Chiral transition-metal complexes are also desirable for asymmetric catalysis, where the majority of systems have chiral ligands to impart chirality in the complex. The alternative ‘chiral-at-metal’ approach imparts chirality at the metal centre by the selective arrangement of asymmetric, achiral ligands, allowing the metal centre to act as both the stereogenic centre and the reactive centre for catalysis.

Chiral-at-metal complexes

Figure 1: General structure for chiral-at-metal complexes using chelating, achiral ligands (above), and the specific structures of the enantiomers for the new osmium system Os1 (below)

Researchers in Germany have adopted this chiral-at-metal approach for asymmetric catalysis, previously reporting Ir(III), Rh(III), Ru(II) and Fe(II) systems, and have now translated this to the first example of a chiral-at-osmium complex (Figure 1). A new octahedral osmium(II) complex was synthesised (Os1), with two bidentate phenanthrolinium ligands (plus carbonyl and bound acetonitrile ligands) that are coordinated in a non-C2-symmetric fashion to create the stereogenic osmium metal centre. Complex Os1 was initially synthesised as a racemic mixture (rac-Os1), in which the researchers were able to resolve to the individual enantiomers using a chiral auxiliary ligand. This method involved replacing the labile acetonitrile ligand with a chiral auxiliary ligand, (S)-2, to form a mixture of diastereomers Δ-(S)-Os2 and Λ-(S)-Os2, which were separable by solubility. Δ-(S)-Os2 precipitated out of the reaction solution, and was isolated and purified by filtration and washing in a >99:1 diastereomeric ratio (d.r.), and the Λ-(S)-Os2 that remained in solution was purified by column chromatography in a >99:1 d.r. The separated diastereomers were then treated with acid in an acetonitrile solution to replace the chiral auxiliary ligand back to the bound acetonitrile, to give the separated enantiomers Δ-Os1 and Λ-Os1, with >99:1 enantiomeric ratios (Scheme 1).

Synthesis of chiral-at-osmium complex

Scheme 1: Synthesis of Os1, starting with formation of the racemic mixture, followed by enantiomeric resolution using a chiral auxiliary ligand (S)-2

The researchers then tested the catalytic activity of the separated enantiomers of Os1 with respect to intramolecular C(sp3)–H aminations that proceed via transition metal nitrenoid intermediates. Δ-Os1 showed catalytic activity for the amination of various nitrene precursor reagents, such as the conversion of sulfonylazides (3) to cyclic sulfonylamides (4) and azidoformates (5) to 2-oxazolidinones (6), tolerating various substrate functional groups (a-c) (Scheme 2). Significantly, the chiral osmium catalyst gave high catalytic yields and enantiomeric purities, particularly in comparison to the previously reported ruthenium analogue (see Scheme 2 for comparative ratios).

Catalysis using chiral-at-osmium complex

Scheme 2: Catalytic C(sp3)-H aminations using Δ-Os1, with comparisons in activity and enantiomeric purity to the previous ruthenium analogue

Overall, this new chiral-at-osmium complex has shown superior catalytic activity with greater enantiomeric selectivity for intramolecular C(sp3)–H aminations, additionally providing the first examples of catalytic enantioselective ring-closing C-H amination of 2-oxazolidinones. This catalytic activity can be attributed to the labile acetonitrile ligand of Os1, which also proved beneficial for allowing enantiomeric resolution of the initial racemic mixture by substitution with a chiral auxiliary ligand.

 

To find out more, please read:

Asymmetric Catalysis with Chiral-at-Osmium Complex

Guanghui Wang, Zijun Zhou, Xiang Shen, Sergei Ivlev and Eric Meggers*

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 7714-7717

 

About the blogger:

Dr. Samantha Apps is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Lu Lab at the University of Minnesota, USA, and obtained her PhD in 2019 from Imperial College London, UK. She has spent the last few years, both in her PhD and postdoc, researching synthetic nitrogen fixation and transition metal complexes that can activate and functionalise dinitrogen. Outside of the lab, you’ll likely find her baking at home, where her years of synthetic lab training has sparked a passion in kitchen chemistry too.

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Bacteria vs. bacteria: studying small molecules for microbial competition

Antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the subsequent diseases caused by their infection, are of serious global concern. As more and more bacteria develop antibiotic resistance and jeopardise the current treatments for serious infections, there is a strong imperative to both develop new medicines and to understand these bacterial pathogens. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and species from the genus Burkholderia are all such antibiotic resistant bacteria that contribute to various human diseases, and they can pose a serious threat to cystic fibrosis patients through chronic lung infections. These are often polymicrobial infections, meaning that the different bacteria interact by association and can alter the impact of the resulting disease.

P. aeruginosa and Burkholderia generally interact competitively with S. aureus, reducing its viability. This is achieved by the secretion of small molecule respiratory toxins which include 2-alkyl-4(1H)-quinolone N-oxides (AQNOs) by P. aeruginosa or 3-methyl-2-alkyl-4-quinolone N-oxides (MAQNOs) by Burkholderia (see Figure 1). Researchers in Germany and Austria sought to understand the antagonistic interactions of these bacteria and have now reported the synthesis of various representative AQNOs and MAQNOs and investigated their action against S. aureus.

Quinolone derivatives secreted by bacteria

Figure 1: Structures of the quinolone derivatives produced by P. aeruginosa and Burkholderia that act against S. aureus

The researchers approached the synthesis of the AQNOs and MAQNOs by starting with the preparation of the corresponding quinolones, and then converting them to the quinolone N-oxides. They focussed on the C9 nonyl-/nonenyl- derivatives, NQNOs and MNQNOs, as previous studies showed this alkyl chain length proved the most active against S. aureus. Mass spectrometry and fragmentation was primarily used to characterise the synthesised compounds, and the researchers were able to establish a new library of standards to be used for the identification of quinolones and quinolone N-oxides. This therefore allowed the researchers to quantify the specific quinolone derivatives produced by certain strains of P. aeruginosa and Burkholderia using this standard library, as shown in Figure 2.

Quinolone standard library

Figure 2: Quantification of the quinolones (AQs and MAQs) and quinolone N-oxides (AQNOs and MAQNOs) secreted by P. aeruginosa (strains PAO1 and PA14) and Burkholderia thailandesis using calibration against the established standard library

 

The researchers then investigated the possible activity of these quinolone derivatives against S. aureus. The activity of S. aureus was measured using a chromogenic assay, by varying concentrations of the quinolone derivatives until a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was reached, with complete respiratory inhibition of the bacteria. The C9-quinolones (before N-oxidation) showed no inhibition against S. aureus at the highest concentrations tested, but the corresponding quinolone N-oxides (NQNOs and MNQNOs) showed activity against the bacteria. More specifically, unsaturated derivatives were more active, and the MNQNOs, with 3-methylation of the quinolone core, showed the greatest antibiotic activity against S. aureus. These results suggest that the methylated quinolones produced by species of Burkholderia, as well as unsaturared quinolones produced by P. aeruginosa, have an important role in competitive interactions against S. aureus in polymicrobial infections.

 

To find out more, please read:

Profiling structural diversity and activity of 2-alkyl-4(1H)-quinolone N-oxides of Pseudomonas and Burkholderia

Dávid Szamosvári, Michaela Prothiwa, Cora Lisbeth Dieterich and Thomas Böttcher

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 6328-6331

 

About the blogger:

Dr. Samantha Apps is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Lu Lab at the University of Minnesota, USA, and obtained her PhD in 2019 from Imperial College London, UK. She has spent the last few years, both in her PhD and postdoc, researching synthetic nitrogen fixation and transition metal complexes that can activate and functionalise dinitrogen. Outside of the lab, you’ll likely find her baking at home, where her years of synthetic lab training has sparked a passion in kitchen chemistry too.

 

 

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Studying Anticancer Agents with XFM

It turns out that rhenium-based compounds have been showing some promising anticancer activity as they’re stable, allow for real time imaging, structurally diverse, and have low off-site toxicity. The most commonly studied complexes are based around a Re(I) tricarbonyl core with the other three binding sites occupied by ligands of varying complexity. Researchers in the US and Australia developed a tricarbonyl Re isonitrile polypyridyl complex fac-[Re(CO)3(dmphen)(para-tolyl-isonitrile)]+, where dmphen = 2,9-dimethyl-1,10-phenanthro-line, called TRIP for short. TRIP showed promising cytotoxicity and can be imaged using confocal fluorescence microscopy, taking advantage of the emissive metal to ligand charge transfer (MLCT) state. The persistence of the emission indicates that the ligands remain bound to the Re even within cells. The complex’s cytotoxicity stems from its inducement of cells to accumulate misfolded proteins, resulting in apoptosis from the unfolded protein response (UPR). UPR induced cell death is relatively uncommon and led the researchers to find a method to characterize the speciation of TRIP in vitro. They used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) to probe the cellular uptake and distribution of TRIP and an iodo-derivative I-TRIP by looking at elemental signals.

Figure 1. Chemical structures of TRIP and I-TRIP

I-TRIP is particularly well-suited to this type of study, as the iodine provides an additional spectroscopic handle on the isonitrile ligand absent in TRIP. Of course, the researchers had to confirm that I-TRIP possessed similar cytotoxicity and working mechanism to TRIP. Various assays and biological studies showed evidence of comparable cytotoxicity and mechanism, demonstrating that altering the substitution of the isonitrile ligand doesn’t significantly impact the bioactivity of the complex. With that settled, the experiments could move to the synchrotron to probe elemental distributions.

Figure 2. XFM elemental distribution maps of HeLa cervical cancer cells treated with either DMSO (control), TRIP, or I-TRIP.

Cells treated with both TRIP and I-TRIP show a clear Re signal, confirming that they can enter and persist in cells. Critically, the colocalization of the Re and I maps for I-TRIP samples indicate that the isonitrile ligand remains bound as a part of the Re complex inside the cells. This strongly suggests that the Re complex is intact while it induces cell death, adding to the developing mechanistic understanding of their activity. This work shows the utility of XRM as a technique to study the distribution of organometallic complexes in living cells. Additionally, the tunability and stable bioactivity of the Re complexes shows that they’re amenable to study by a wide range of techniques that will allow for further mechanistic probing.

To find out more, please read:

X-Ray fluorescence microscopy reveals that rhenium(I) tricarbonyl isonitrile complexes remain intact in vitro

Chilaluck C. Konkankit, James Lovett, Hugh H. Harris and Justin J. Wilson

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 6515-6518

About the blogger:

Dr. Beth Mundy is a recent PhD in chemistry from the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focused on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

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A precious pairing

Understanding metal-metal interactions is of fundamental interest to chemists, especially in the design of new materials or catalysts. Heterometallic metal-metal bonding is particularly fascinating, since the unique properties of each metal can be combined or even manipulated, to enhance structural, electronic or even photochemical effects. Gold and platinum are one such pairing of interest and there have already been several applications of AuPt clusters reported for catalysis. However, well-defined, homogeneous AuPt complexes are comparatively under explored, but there is a huge potential for these heterodinuclear complexes to catalyse useful chemical transformations. Research in Germany by Butschke and co-workers now describes the first example of an AuPt complex with a bound olefin, as a valuable, formal Au+IPt0 precursor for further reactivity and chemical transformations (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The new AuPt heterodinuclear complex with Pt-bound olefins (right), and existing examples in the literature with Pt-bound phosphines (left and centre).

The new cationic AuPt complex described in this report differs from the existing literature by the presence of weakly bound olefin ligands (in this case, norbonene/nbe) coordinated to the platinum. The other existing examples have only strongly σ-donating phosphine ligands coordinated to the Pt centre, which increases the overall stability of the complexes and renders them unreactive for further chemistry. In contrast, the nbe ligands are more weakly bound, and have a much lower dissociation energy, creating a more reactive complex which is therefore a valuable precursor to other formal Au+IPt0 complexes. This increased reactivity is reflected in the preparation and subsequent manipulations of the complex, which had to be conducted at low temperatures to prevent decomposition.

Figure 2: The X-ray crystal structure of the new AuPt complex.

The new AuPt heterodinuclear complex prepared in this report was characterised by a range of spectroscopic and structural techniques. Single-crystal X-ray diffraction confirmed the molecular structure of the complex, as shown in Figure 2. A rearrangement of the three axial nbe ligands was observed in the new AuPt complex compared to the [Pt(nbe)3] platinum precursor; the three olefin ligands are arranged in a spoke-wheel geometry with the bridging methylenes of nbe all pointing in the same direction away from the gold (an ‘up-up-up’ configuration, in comparison to an ‘up-up-down’ arrangement as in the Pt precursor). NMR spectroscopic characterisation also helped to elucidate and confirm the structure. The 195Pt-NMR resonance of the AuPt complex was particularly noteworthy, showing a similar chemical shift to that of the Pt precursor, which indicates little to no electronic change at Pt0 in the new AuPt complex. This was also reflected in the 13C NMR resonances for the olefinic carbons, which again, were similar in the AuPt complex and the Pt precursor.

Figure 3: Comparing the new AuPt complex (3) to other systems with fewer bound olefins, in terms of the Au-Pt bond dissociation energy (x-axis) and the overall charge transfer between the Au and Pt (y-axis), according to three different calculations.

The authors then further probed the binding of the gold centre to the platinum, and why there was no apparent significant change in the electronics between the new AuPt complex and the Pt precursor. A comparison to the existing AuPt complexes reported revealed that these are often assigned formally as Au-IPt+II, where there is a dative interaction between the Lewis base (Pt) and the Lewis Acid (Au). In contrast, the new AuPt complex in this report is formally assigned as Au+IPt0, where there is considerably less charge transfer in the metal-metal bonding, as shown by DFT calculations (see Figure 3). This formal Au+IPt0 assignment ultimately results in the coordinated nbe olefin ligands having a low dissociation energy (i.e. they are highly labile and susceptible to ligand substitution), which is further supported by DFT calculations and is reflected in the lack of an identifiable electrospray-ionisation mass spectrometry peak for the [M]+ ion. Therefore, this new AuPt complex is a desirable precursor for the preparation of other formal Au+IPt0 complexes, which will allow for future reactivity studies on these unusual heterodinuclear systems.

To find out more, please read:

A heterodinuclear, formal Au+IPt0 complex with weakly bound alkene ligands

Lukas D. Ernst, Konstantin Koessler, Andreas Peter, Daniel Kratzert, Harald Scherer and Burkhard Butschke

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 5350-5353

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Generating Electricity from Urea Using NiCoMo/Graphene Catalysts

Electro-oxidizing urea in water has the dual benefit of generating electricity and treating wastewater. In alkaline media, the sluggish kinetics of the urea oxidation reaction, CO(NH2)2 + 6OH → N2↑ + CO2↑ + 5H2O + 6e, due to its transfer of six electrons demand efficient catalysts to speed up this process.

A research team led by Xiujuan Sun and Rui Ding, both at Xiangtan University, China, used a co-precipitation method to synthesize urea-oxidation catalysts. These catalysts comprised of graphene-anchored nanoparticles of metallic Ni, Co, and Mo, as well as their alloys and hydro/oxides (NCM/G) (Figure 1). NCM/G with the optimal composition displayed a mass activity of 140.9 mA cm-2 mgcat-1 and an onset potential of 1.32 V vs. RHE (current density = 10 mA/cm2). Their results are published in Chemical Communications (DOI: 10.1039/D0CC02132F).

Figure 1. Representative (a) transmission electron microscopy image and (b-f) elemental mappings of the synthesized catalyst.

The catalysts exhibited different catalytic activities dependent on their chemical compositions, which were tunable by varying the moles of the Ni, Co, and Mo precursors. Cyclic voltammograms of various NCM/G all showed markedly increased current density at potentials beyond 0.3 V vs. Ag/AgCl in urea-containing aqueous solutions (Figure 2a), marking their catalytic activity for urea oxidation. Among all the tested catalysts, NCM/G with Ni:Co:Mo = 80:10:10 achieved the largest current density at 0.6 V vs. Ag/AgCl, indicating its highest catalytic activity. Additionally, chronoamperometry demonstrated that increasing the Mo content was beneficial for maintaining catalyst stability, as the current density of NCM/G with the lowest amount of Mo (the black curve in Figure 2b) decayed the fastest. Combining the results of cyclic voltammetry and chronoamperometry, the authors deduced that the optimal molar ratio of Ni:Co:Mo was 80:10:10.

Figure 2. (a) Cyclic voltammograms (scan rate: 1 mV/s) and (b) chronoamperometry (potential: 0.5 V vs. Ag/AgCl) profiles of NCM/G with different Ni, Co, and Mo contents. Electrolyte: 1.0 M KOH + 0.33 M urea in water. The molar ratios of Ni:Co:Mo of NCM/G 90505, 811, and 71515 are 90:5:5. 80:10:10, and 70:15:15, respectively.

The optimization of the chemical composition demonstrated in this work can rationalize the development of high-performance, metallic electrocatalysts for urea oxidation.

For expanded understanding, please read:

Trimetallic NiCoMo/Graphene Multifunctional Electrocatalysts with Moderate Structural/Electronic Effects for Highly Efficient Alkaline Urea Oxidation Reaction

Wei Shi, Xiujuan Sun, Rui Ding, Danfeng Ying, Yongfa Huang, Yuxi Huang, Caini Tan, Ziyang Jia, and Enhui Liu

Chem. Commun., 2020, DOI: 10.1039/D0CC02132F

 

Tianyu Liu acknowledges Zacary Croft at Virginia Tech, U.S., for his careful proofreading of this post.

 

About the blogger:

Tianyu Liu obtained his Ph.D. (2017) in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States. He is passionate about the communication of scientific endeavors to both the general public and other scientists with diverse research expertise to introduce cutting-edge research to broad audiences. He is a blog writer for Chem. Comm. and Chem. Sci. More information about him can be found at http://liutianyuresearch.weebly.com/.

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Teachable micromotors

Micromotors, for the uninitiated aka me, are a specific type of colloidal structure that harvests energy from their environment and turns it into motion. In order for them to be truly effective for possible applications though, they must be able to communicate and coordinate with one another. If you want to make microbots, they can’t just move about all willy-nilly with no regard for each other. Recently, scientists have created a mixed system where one structure sheds silver ions that cause other micromotors to accelerate, an approach that mimics natural systems like bee colonies.

Researchers in China developed a system where photochemically powered micromotors can spontaneously “teach” catalytic micromotors to oscillate without any external influence. The teachers are Janus-type microparticles composed of either polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) or silicon dioxide particles half coated with silver. Under irradiation with KCl and H2O2, the silver can interconvert between Ag(0) and Ag(1), causing the oscillatory motion of the entire particle. In contrast, the two non-oscillatory micromotors, either polystyrene spheres half coated with platinum (PS-PT) or gold-rhodium microrods (Au-Rh), catalytically decompose H2O2 to move autonomously in standard Brownian motion. When the two types of micromotors are mixed under UV light, the motion of the non-oscillatory materials changes from random to clearly oscillating (Figure 1). The intensity of the motion change depends on the proximity of the learner to the teacher, with learners closer to the teacher displaying more intense oscillations.

Figure 1. Change in movement of non-oscillating micromotors when exposed to oscillating “teacher” structures.

In fact, the Au-Rh rods will demonstrate more intense oscillations than the PMMA-Ag particles. The researchers propose a mechanism where the PMMA-Ag particles release silver ions as they oscillate, which then deposit onto the Au-Rh rods. The silver increases the catalytic activity of the rods and then, given the operating conditions, undergoes the same redox process that causes oscillation in the PMMA-Ag system.

Figure 2. Proposed mechanism of silver release and adsorption onto Au-Rh rods.

This hypothesized mechanism is supported by the development of oscillatory behavior by the Au-Rh rods in under reaction conditions where the PMMA-Ag particles are replaced by silver ions in solution. The silver on the rod surface isn’t merely adsorbed – it forms into small silver nanoparticles which can be seen via electron microscopy, making a new trimetallic structure. These nanoparticles change the trajectories of the rods, causing them to move in circles. While this system isn’t perfect, the student structures have imperfect memories and cannot teach one another, it provides a strategy for working with groups of micromotors to move towards coordinated motion and further applications.

To find out more, please read:

Non-oscillatory micromotors ‘‘learn’’ to oscillate on-the-fly from oscillating Ag micromotors

Chao Zhou, Qizhang Wang, Xianglong Lv and Wei Wang

Chem. Commun., 2020, Advance Article

About the blogger:

Dr. Beth Mundy is a recent PhD in chemistry from the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focused on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

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Potassium-Ion Batteries Welcome A New Electrode from Iron Compounds

A research team led by Jiang Zhou and Shuquan Liang of Central South University, China, recently identified iron oxyhydroxide (β-FeOOH) as a K-ion battery electrode material. It is reportedly the first iron-oxide-based compound to serve in K-ion batteries. The results have been published in Chemical Communications (DOI: 10.1039/d0cc01009j).

K-ion batteries are a new type of rechargeable battery emerging after Li-ion batteries, the charge-storage functionality of which is associated with the intercalation and de-intercalation of K+. Due to the relative abundance of K+ to Li+, K-ion batteries are poised as a promising alternative to Li-ion batteries.

The researchers made the electrode by a hydrothermal reaction. Specifically, they dispersed Super P® (SP), an electrically conductive additive, into FeCl3 aqueous solutions. The mixture was then heated at 150 °C for 10 h. The resultant powder (FeOOH-SP), comprised of uniformly mixed, crystalline β-FeOOH nanorods and Super P particles (Fig. 1), was directly used as an electrode material.

Figure 1. Transmission electron microscopy images of (a, b) FeOOH-SP and (c) FeOOH. (d) Elemental mappings of C, Fe, and O in FeOOH-SP.

The authors investigated the electrochemical properties of FeOOH-SP in K-ion batteries. At a current density of 100 mA/g, FeOOH-SP exhibited a stable specific capacity of ~200 mAh/g, approximately double and quadruple that of SP and FeOOH alone, respectively (Fig. 2a). The specific capacity of FeOOH-SP was maintained at ~100 mAh/g when the current density increased to 2000 mA/g (Fig. 2b), showing its fast-charging capability. Additionally, the authors observed that the crystalline β-FeOOH nanorods amorphized upon K+ intercalation after being discharged (Fig. 2c). Their crystallinity was only partially restored when being re-charged (Fig. 2d). The loss of crystallinity, however, did not undermine the charge-storage capacity of FeOOH-SP.

Figure 2. (a) Specific capacities of FeOOH-SP, SP, and FeOOH at different charge-discharge cycles. Current density: 100 mA/g. (b) Rate capability of FeOOH-SP. (c, d) Transmission electron microscopy images of (c) discharged and (d) charged FeOOH-SP. Red dashed boxes highlight crystalline regions. The electrolyte was a mixture of ethylene carbonate and diethyl carbonate containing 1 M potassium bis(fluorosulfonyl)imide.

Considering the low-cost of iron oxyhydroxide, FeOOH-SP could reduce the manufacturing cost of K-ion batteries and increase the affordability of electrochemical charge storage devices.

 

For expanded understanding, please read:

β-FeOOH: A New Anode for Potassium-Ion Batteries

Xiaodong Shi, Liping Qin, Guofu Xu, Shan Guo, Shuci Ma, Yunxiang Zhao, Jiang Zhou, and Shuquan Liang

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 3713-3716.

Tianyu Liu acknowledges Zacary Croft at Virginia Tech, U.S., for his careful proofreading of this post.

About the blogger:

Tianyu Liu obtained his Ph.D. (2017) in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States. He is passionate about the communication of scientific endeavors to both the general public and other scientists with diverse research expertise to introduce cutting-edge research to broad audiences. He is a blog writer for Chem. Comm. and Chem. Sci. More information about him can be found at http://liutianyuresearch.weebly.com/.

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Aluminum-Based Liquid Coordination Complexes

Before I get into the research, I just have to say that I think ionic liquids (ILs) are just cool. An ionic compound that’s a liquid? Mind blown. Not only are they interesting, but those unique properties make them attractive for industrial use. One class of ionic liquids generating research focus is halometallate ionic liquids (HILs), generated by reacting a metal halide and an organic halide salt. In particular, chloro-alluminate ILs have been some of the most promising for applications in industrial acid catalysis and are composed of anionic aluminate species. However, recent work has found mixtures of aluminum chloride and N/O/S donors produce a liquid Lewis acidic compounds, referred to as liquid coordination complexes (LCCs). These LCCs are potential replacements for HILs, as they’re typically easier and cheaper to prepare. Further studies have found ionic species by 27Al NMR, drawing parallels between LCCs and HILs. By combining AlCl3 and polar organic solvents, researchers in the US screened for novel LCC or HIL reactivity in catalysis.

This straightforward approach allowed researchers to easily tune the ratio of AlCl3 and solvent to find mixtures with desired properties. They chose the nitrogen donor 1-methylimidazole, N-Mim, and an oxygen donor N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (O-NMP) as their solvents for testing given their wide availability and relevance to organic chemical reactivity. The selected solvent and AlCl3 were mixed at room temperature and found in all cases to form heterogenous mixtures. When heated to 100 oC mixtures with molar fractions of AlCl3 between 0.33 and 0.6 formed viscous liquids, many of which became solids at room temperature. These compounds were then crystalized for x-ray crystallographic analysis, where their structures confirmed the association of the aluminum with the nitrogen (Figure 1) or oxygen.

Figure 1. 50% probability ellipsoid plot of AlCl3(N-Mim), showing coordination between the aluminum and nitrogen

In the N-Mim system, 27Al NMR showed the formation of a single aluminum-containing species at AlCl3 molar fractions of 0.5 and below, with exchange occurring when higher concentrations of N-Mim are present. The O-NMP system proved more challenging to characterize crystallographically, potentially due to the formation of larger oligomeric complexes in the solid phase and increased disorder in the O-NMP ligand. However, 27Al NMR proved insightful and showed the presence of multiple aluminum-containing species, including several different stoichiometries of aluminum-solvent adducts.

Figure 2. Aluminum NMR spectra of aluminum/O-NMP complexes showing speciation over a range of different stoichiometries.

When the two systems were side-by-side compared for Lewis acidity and catalytic activity for the alkylization of benzene, the clear winner was the O-NMP system. The O-NMP-AlCl3 complex with an aluminum molar fraction of 0.6 was both the most Lewis acidic, determined by an acetonitrile IR probe, and the most catalytically active. It gave full conversion with a selectivity of almost 80%, while the N-Mim complex with the same mole fractions produced only a 32% conversion with no significant increase in selectivity. Complexes with less aluminum showed no signs of catalytic activity and were less Lewis acidic. The high activity of the AlCl3/O-NMP system can be explained by its possession of both a highly Lewis acidic cation [AlCl2(O-NMP)2]+ and a highly Lewis acidic anion [Al2Cl7], whose presence was identified in the NMR experiments. This work demonstrated a straightforward method to synthesize LCC-based catalysts with high activity, while providing some general guidance on the suitability of O-donor ligands for further study.

To find out more, please read:

Are ionic liquids and liquid coordination complexes really different? – Synthesis, characterization, and catalytic activity of AlCl3/base catalysts

Rajkumar Kore, Steven P. Kelley, Anand D. Sawant, Manish Kumar Mishra and Robin D. Rogers

Chem. Commun., 2020, Advance Article

About the blogger:

Dr. Beth Mundy is a recent PhD in chemistry from the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focused on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

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Upgrading Methanol Using Zinc-Indium-Sulfide and Solar Light

Based on the chemical formulae, can you figure out how to convert methanol (CH3OH) into ethylene glycol (HOCH2CH2OH)? If you have constantly practiced your organic chemistry, you might have already found the answer: combining two methanol molecules and eliminating one hydrogen molecule (H2). Indeed, this methanol-coupling reaction is a promising, low-cost chemical route to upgrade methanol to chemicals with more carbon atoms. The feasibility of this route, however, is low under mild conditions without catalysts to drive the reaction.

A group of scientists led by Shunji Xie and Ye Wang, both at Xiamen University, China, has developed an environmentally friendly catalyst, Zn2In2S5, for room-temperature methanol coupling to produce ethylene glycol using solar light. This work has been published in Chemical Communications (DOI: 10.1039/c9cc09205f).

The synthesized Zn2In2S5 catalyst is comprised of 1-3 layers of nanosheets. Through a hydrothermal reaction, the researchers first synthesized multi-layer Zn2In2S5 stacks in an aqueous solution (Fig. 1a). Subsequent ultrasonication exfoliated the stacks into few-layer Zn2In2S5­ nanosheets that were confirmed by transmission electron microscopy (Fig. 1b). Zn2In2S5 is a semiconductor and its valence band (VB) resides below the redox potential of ethylene glycol/methanol (Fig. 1c). The band alignment enables Zn2In2S5 to catalyze the oxidation of methanol to ethylene glycol.

Figure 1. (a) A scheme of the synthesis procedures of few-layer ZnmIn2Sm+3 (m=1-3) nanosheets. (b) Transmission electron microscopy images of few-layer Zn2In2S5 nanosheets. (c) Positions of the valence bands (VBs) and conduction bands (CBs) of different metal-sulfide semiconductors.

Zn2In2S5 and its composite exhibited high catalytic activity. Upon irradiation with visible light and solar light (AM 1.5), photo-induced electrons and holes generated in Zn2In2S5 (Fig. 2a). The electrons reduced protons in electrolytes and liberated hydrogen gas, while the holes moved to the Zn2In2S5 surface and split the C—H bond of methanol, forming ·CH2OH radicals. These radicals then dimerized into ethylene glycol. Through depositing a hydrogen evolution co-catalyst, cobalt monophosphide (CoP), and illuminating using AM 1.5 solar light, the authors observed that the CoP/Zn2In2S5 catalyst achieved a rapid formation rate (18.9 mmol gcat-1 h-1) and high selectivity (~90%) of ethylene glycol (Fig. 2b). The yield of ethylene glycol after 12 h of reaction was 4.5%.

Figure 2. (a) A scheme of the formation mechanisms of ethylene (from methanol) and 2,3-butanediol (from ethanol) on Zn2In2S5. EG: ethylene glycol. 2,3-BD: 2,3-butanediol. (b) Formation rates and ethylene glycol selectivity of Zn2In2S5 and CoP/Zn2In2S5 under two illumination conditions. AM 1.5: air mass 1.5 solar irradiance. HCHO is a byproduct.

Zn2In2S5 was demonstrated to effectively catalyze C—H cleavages and C—C couplings of different alcohols, e.g., from ethanol to 2,3-butanediol.

 

To find out more, please read:

C–H Activations of Methanol and Ethanol and C–C Couplings into Diols by Zinc–Indium–Sulfide Under Visible Light

Haikun Zhang, Shunji Xie, Jinyuan Hu, Xuejiao Wu, Qinghong Zhang, Jun Cheng, and Ye Wang

Chem. Commun., 2020, DOI: 10.1039/c9cc09205f

 

The blogger acknowledges Zac Croft at Virginia Tech, U.S., for his careful proofreading of this post.

 

About the blogger:

Tianyu Liu obtained his Ph.D. (2017) in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States. He is passionate about the communication of scientific endeavors to both the general public and other scientists with diverse research expertise to introduce cutting-edge research to broad audiences. He is a blog writer for Chem. Comm. and Chem. Sci. More information about him can be found at http://liutianyuresearch.weebly.com/.

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Ketone Reduction with Magnesium

Making catalysts from non-precious metals has been a challenge embraced by chemists over the past few decades. In particular, the ability of alkaline earth metal catalysts to be both highly stable and highly reactive has made them attractive for study. Magnesium complexes can catalyze hydroelementation across a carbon-oxygen double bond with a wide scope of substrates. However, it isn’t enough to just perform this reaction. For meaningful reactivity the catalyst would be enantioselective and prior to this report only one example of a stereoselective magnesium-based system existed in the literature. A persistent barrier to developing this reactivity has been the propensity of alkaline earth metal hydrides (a likely step in the catalytic cycle) to form contact-ion pairs with available anions. Based on this framework, researchers in Germany developed a catalyst motif involving borohydride-alkaline earth metal adduct formation to enhance stereoselectivity.

They drew on their precious work utilizing manganese complexes that demonstrated enantioselectivity, applying it to the magnesium system. They could straightforwardly create the magnesium alkyl complexes by mixing ligand and magnesium alkyl precursors. The complexes were tested for hydroelemetation using acetone as a model substrate. The rate and selectivity of the reaction was significantly impacted by the choice of reducing agent, with non-boron reductants producing low yields and low enantioselectivity. Altering the ligand backbone didn’t improve selectivity, but purifying an assembled precatalyst and slowly raising the temperature from -40 oC to RT increased enantiomeric excess to 96%. Even more exciting, using this general reaction format high enantioselectivity was seen for a wide range of aryl alkyl ketones screened with no adverse reactivity seen towards ester moieties (Figure 1). This system also catalyzes reactions with α-substituted, cyclic alkyl aryl, and dialkyl ketones, but with lowered enantioselectivity. However, the catalyst is tolerant of a range of functional groups and remains selective for carbonyls implying broad possible utility.

Figure 1. Substrates tested for hydroelementation using a magnesium catalyst with conversion and stereoselectivity numbers.

To more fully understand the system, the researchers undertook experiments to find possible intermediates in the catalytic cycle. The reactivity at room temperature required consistent low temperature work to prevent further progress of the intermediates along the catalytic cycle. In the absence of a boron-derived reducing agent, the catalyst forms a highly labile, and expected, alkoxide intermediate that is not observable under catalytic conditions. When the precatalyst is reacted with excess borane it forms a borohydride intermediate that was crystallographically observed.

Figure 2. Solid state molecular crystal structure of borohydride intermediate.

When this complex was reacted with a fluorinated ketone, variable temperature boron and fluorine NMR was used to identify transient species. Upon addition of the ketone immediate shifts in the boron signal to two species, one of which remains when the temperature increases to -60 oC. The unstable species can be attributed to a ketone borohydride complex, but the dynamic nature of the system makes crystallizing these intermediates very challenging. DFT calculations suggest a low-energy transition state that favors the (S)-product and accounts for the catalyst’s consistent stereoselectivity.

To find out more, please read:

Borohydride intermediates pave the way for magnesium-catalysed enantioselective ketone reduction

Vladislav Vasilenko, Clemens K. Blasius, Hubert Wadepohl and Lutz H. Gade

Chem. Commun., 2020, 56, 1203-1206

About the blogger:

Beth Mundy is a PhD candidate in chemistry in the Cossairt lab at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Her research focuses on developing new and better ways to synthesize nanomaterials for energy applications. She is often spotted knitting in seminars or with her nose in a good book. You can find her on Twitter at @BethMundySci.

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