Iron catalyzed CO2 hydrogenation to formate enhanced by Lewis acid co-catalysts†
A family of iron(II) carbonyl hydride complexes supported by either a bifunctional PNP ligand containing a secondary amine, or a PNP ligand with a tertiary amine that prevents metal–ligand cooperativity, were found to promote the catalytic hydrogenation of CO2 to formate in the presence of Brønsted base. In both cases a remarkable enhancement in catalytic activity was observed upon the addition of Lewis acid (LA) co-catalysts. For the secondary amine supported system, turnover numbers of approximately 9000 for formate production were achieved, while for catalysts supported by the tertiary amine ligand, nearly 60 000 turnovers were observed; the highest activity reported for an earth abundant catalyst to date. The LA co-catalysts raise the turnover number by more than an order of magnitude in each case. In the secondary amine system, mechanistic investigations implicated the LA in disrupting an intramolecular hydrogen bond between the PNP ligand N–H moiety and the carbonyl oxygen of a formate ligand in the catalytic resting state. This destabilization of the iron-bound formate accelerates product extrusion, the rate-limiting step in catalysis. In systems supported by ligands with the tertiary amine, it was demonstrated that the LA enhancement originates from cation assisted substitution of formate for dihydrogen during the slow step in catalysis.