Journal of Catalysis, Vol.378, 256-269, 2019
Synergistic hydrogen atom transfer with the active role of solvent: Preferred one-step aerobic oxidation of cyclohexane to adipic acid by N-hydroxyphthalimide
In this work, we developed an one-step aerobic oxidation of cyclohexane to prepare adipic acid, catalyzed by N-hydroxyphthalimide (NHPI) under promoter- and metal-free conditions. A significant beneficial solvent effect for synergistic reaction is observed with varying polarity and hydrogen-bonding strength: detailed study reveals that the solvent environments manipulate catalytic activity and adipic acid selectivity. Cyclic voltammetry measurements and UV-visible spectra of the NHPI catalyst are examined in various solvent environments to understand the active role of solvent in influencing the catalytic-site structure (>NOH) of the molecule. Analysis of the UV-visible spectra reveals that these differences can be rationalized by considering hydrogen-bonding with solvent molecules, which modifies the catalytic-site structure. This observation is in agreement with cyclic voltammetry results: the different reversibility of the catalytic-site (>NOH/>NO center dot) wave shows that the catalytic activity of NHPI is related to the formation of hydrogen bonds with the active participation of solvents. Computational studies presented herein have furnished mechanistic insights into the effect of solvent environments. Specifically, we present the structures, dissociation energies, and reaction barriers from DFT studies of the reactants and reaction intermediates involved in the two types of H-abstraction on >NO center dot catalytic-sites for the rate-determining step. The results of modeling the solvent effects using the PCM continuum solvent method predict that the resulting reaction barrier of the rate-controlling H-abstraction for cyclohexane and cyclohexanone is modified significantly: the transition state barrier of H-abstraction for cyclohexane decreases from 22.36 (in benzene) to 20.78 kcal.mol(-1) (in acetonitrile); the alpha-H-abstraction barrier for cyclohexanone decreases from 21.45 to 20.53 kcal.mol(-1). The active participation of solvent molecule results in a strong interaction between pre-reaction complex (PINO center dot center dot center dot H center dot center dot center dot C < ) with the migrating hydrogen and polar solvent molecules, which in turn favors the H-abstraction by a hydrogen-transfer to the >NO center dot catalytic-sites at the transition state. The lower calculated barriers of H-abstraction for cyclohexanone oxidation approximate more closely the experimental results of the higher adipic acid selectivity. Our work provides a dimension of sustainable chemistry for the metal-free preparation of adipic acid: a conversion of 27% with 79% adipic acid selectivity is achieved over use of NHPI catalysts in CH3CN solvent. (C) 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.