Photomediated core modification of organic photoredox catalysts in radical addition: mechanism and applications†
Dihydrophenazines and their analogues have been widely used as strong reducing photoredox catalysts in radical chemistry, such as organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization (O-ATRP). However, when dihydrophenazines were employed as organic photoredox catalysts (OPCs) to mediate O-ATRP, the initiator efficiency was nonquantitative due to cross-coupling between dihydrophenazines and radical species. Here, a new kind of core modification for dihydrophenazines, phenoxazines and phenothiazines was developed through this cross-coupling process. Mechanistic studies suggested that the radical species would be more likely to couple with OPC' radical cations rather than the ground-state OPC. Core modification of OPCs could stabilize the radical ions in an oxidative quenching catalytic cycle. Significantly, core modifications of OPCs could lower the energy of light required for photoexcitation. Compared with their noncore-modified counterparts, all the core-modified dihydrophenazines and phenoxazines exhibited efficient performance in controlling O-ATRP for the synthesis of poly(methyl methacrylate) with higher initiator efficiencies under the irradiation of simulated sunlight.