Combining metal–metal cooperativity, metal–ligand cooperativity and chemical non-innocence in diiron carbonyl complexes†
Several metalloenzymes, including [FeFe]-hydrogenase, employ cofactors wherein multiple metal atoms work together with surrounding ligands that mediate heterolytic and concerted proton–electron transfer (CPET) bond activation steps. Herein, we report a new dinucleating PNNP expanded pincer ligand, which can bind two low-valent iron atoms in close proximity to enable metal–metal cooperativity (MMC). In addition, reversible partial dearomatization of the ligand's naphthyridine core enables both heterolytic metal–ligand cooperativity (MLC) and chemical non-innocence through CPET steps. Thermochemical and computational studies show how a change in ligand binding mode can lower the bond dissociation free energy of ligand C(sp3)–H bonds by ∼25 kcal mol−1. H-atom abstraction enabled trapping of an unstable intermediate, which undergoes facile loss of two carbonyl ligands to form an unusual paramagnetic (S = ) complex containing a mixed-valent iron(0)–iron(I) core bound within a partially dearomatized PNNP ligand. Finally, cyclic voltammetry experiments showed that these diiron complexes show catalytic activity for the electrochemical hydrogen evolution reaction. This work presents the first example of a ligand system that enables MMC, heterolytic MLC and chemical non-innocence, thereby providing important insights and opportunities for the development of bimetallic systems that exploit these features to enable new (catalytic) reactivity.