Laboratory-scale photoredox catalysis using hydrated electrons sustainably generated with a single green laser†
The ruthenium-tris-bipyridyl dication as catalyst combined with the ascorbate dianion as bioavailable sacrificial donor provides the first regenerative source of hydrated electrons for chemical syntheses on millimolar scales. This electron generator is operated simply by illumination with a frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser (532 nm) running at its normal repetition rate. Much more detailed information than by product studies alone was obtained by photokinetical characterization from submicroseconds (time-resolved laser flash photolysis) up to one hour (preparative photolysis). The experiments on short timescales established a reaction mechanism more complex than previously thought, and proved the catalytic action by unchanged concentration traces of the key transients over a number of flashes so large that the accumulated electron total surpassed the catalyst concentration many times. Preparative photolyses revealed that the sacrificial donor greatly enhances the catalyst stability through quenching the initial metal-to-ligand charge-transfer state before destructive dd states can be populated from it, such that the efficiency of this electron generator is no longer limited by catalyst decomposition but by electron scavenging by the accumulating oxidation products of the ascorbate. Applications covered dechlorinations of selected aliphatic and aromatic chlorides and the reduction of a model ketone. All these substrates are impervious to photoredox catalysts exhibiting lower reducing power than the hydrated electron, but the combination of an extremely negative standard potential and a long unquenched life allowed turnover numbers up to 1400 with our method.