Palladium-catalysed cross-coupling reactions, central tools in fine-chemical synthesis, predominantly employ soluble metal complexes despite recognized challenges with product purification and catalyst reusability. Attempts to tether these homogeneous catalysts on insoluble carriers have been thwarted by suboptimal stability, which leads to a progressively worsening performance due to metal leaching or clustering. The alternative application of supported Pd nanoparticles has faced limitations because of insufficient activity under the mild conditions required to avoid thermal degradation of the substrates or products. Single-atom heterogeneous catalysts lie at the frontier. Here, we show that the Pd atoms anchored on exfoliated graphitic carbon nitride (Pd-ECN) capture the advantages of both worlds, as they comprise a solid catalyst that matches the high chemoselectivity and broad functional group tolerance of state-of-the-art homogeneous catalysts for Suzuki couplings, and also demonstrate a robust stability in flow. The adaptive coordination environment within the macroheterocycles of ECN facilitates each catalytic step. The findings illustrate the exciting opportunities presented by nanostructuring single atoms in solid hosts for catalytic processes that remain difficult to heterogenize.
Some metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) incorporate nodes that are metal oxide clusters such as ZrO. Vacancies on the node surfaces, accidental or by design, act as catalytic sites. Here, we report elucidation of the chemistry of ZrO nodes in the MOFs UiO-66 and UiO-67 having used infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies to determine the ligands on the node surfaces originating from the solvents and modifiers used in the syntheses and having elucidated the catalytic properties of the nodes for ethanol dehydration, which takes place selectively to make diethyl ether but not ethylene at 473-523 K. Density functional theory calculations show that the key to the selective catalysis is the breaking of node-linker bonds (or the accidental adjacency of open/defect sites) that allows catalytically fruitful bonding of the reactant ethanol to neighboring sites on the nodes, facilitating the bimolecular ether formation through an S2 mechanism.
Zr-based metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) have been shown to be excellent catalyst supports in heterogeneous catalysis due to their exceptional stability. Additionally, their crystalline nature affords the opportunity for molecular level characterization of both the support and the catalytically active site, facilitating mechanistic investigations of the catalytic process. We describe herein the installation of Co(II) ions to the Zr6 nodes of the mesoporous MOF, NU-1000, via two distinct routes, namely, solvothermal deposition in a MOF (SIM) and atomic layer deposition in a MOF (AIM), denoted as Co-SIM+NU-1000 and Co-AIM+NU-1000, respectively. The location of the deposited Co species in the two materials is determined via difference envelope density (DED) analysis. Upon activation in a flow of O2 at 230 °C, both materials catalyze the oxidative dehydrogenation (ODH) of propane to propene under mild conditions. Catalytic activity as well as propene selectivity of these two catalysts, however, is different under the same experimental conditions due to differences in the Co species generated in these two materials upon activation as observed by in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy. A potential reaction mechanism for the propane ODH process catalyzed by Co-SIM+NU-1000 is proposed, yielding a low activation energy barrier which is in accord with the observed catalytic activity at low temperature.
Copper oxide clusters synthesized via atomic layer deposition on the nodes of the metal-organic framework (MOF) NU-1000 are active for oxidation of methane to methanol under mild reaction conditions. Analysis of chemical reactivity, in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy, and density functional theory calculations are used to determine structure/activity relations in the Cu-NU-1000 catalytic system. The Cu-loaded MOF contained Cu-oxo clusters of a few Cu atoms. The Cu was present under ambient conditions as a mixture of ∼15% Cu and ∼85% Cu. The oxidation of methane on Cu-NU-1000 was accompanied by the reduction of 9% of the Cu in the catalyst from Cu to Cu. The products, methanol, dimethyl ether, and CO, were desorbed with the passage of 10% water/He at 135 °C, giving a carbon selectivity for methane to methanol of 45-60%. Cu oxo clusters stabilized in NU-1000 provide an active, first generation MOF-based, selective methane oxidation catalyst.
Molybdenum(VI) oxide was deposited on the Zr node of the mesoporous metal-organic framework NU-1000 via condensed-phase deposition where the MOF is simply submerged in the precursor solution, a process named solvothermal deposition in MOFs (SIM). Exposure to oxygen leads to a monodisperse, porous heterogeneous catalyst, named Mo-SIM, and its structure on the node was elucidated both computationally and spectroscopically. The catalytic activity of Mo-SIM was tested for the epoxidation of cyclohexene. Near-quantitative yields of cyclohexene oxide and the ring-opened 1,2-cyclohexanediol were observed, indicating activity significantly higher than that of molybdenum(VI) oxide powder and comparable to that of a zirconia-supported analogue (Mo-ZrO) prepared in a similar fashion. Despite the well-known leaching problem of supported molybdenum catalysts (i.e., loss of Mo species thus causes deactivation), Mo-SIM demonstrated no loss in the metal loading before and after catalysis, and no molybdenum was detected in the reaction mixture. In contrast, Mo-ZrO led to significant leaching and close to 80 wt % loss of the active species. The stability of Mo-SIM was further confirmed computationally, with density functional theory calculations indicating that the dissociation of the molybdenum(VI) species from the node of NU-1000 is endergonic, corroborating the experimental data for the Mo-SIM material.
Recent progress in the synthesis and characterization of metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) has opened the door to an increasing number of possible catalytic applications. The great versatility of MOFs creates a large chemical space, whose thorough experimental examination becomes practically impossible. Therefore, computational modeling is a key tool to support, rationalize, and guide experimental efforts. In this outlook we survey the main methodologies employed to model MOFs for catalysis, and we review selected recent studies on the functionalization of their nodes. We pay special attention to catalytic applications involving natural gas conversion.
Amino-functionalized zirconium-based metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have shown unprecedented catalytic activity compared to non-functionalized analogues for hydrolysis of organophosphonate-based toxic chemicals. Importantly, the effect of the amino group on the catalytic activity is significantly higher in the case of UiO-66-NH , where the amino groups reside near the node, compared to UiO-67-m-NH , where they are directed away from the node. Herein, we show that the proximity of the amino group is crucial for fast catalytic activity towards hydrolysis of organophosphonate-based nerve agents. The generality of the observed amine-proximity-dictated catalytic activity has been tested on two different MOF systems which have different topology. DFT calculations reveal that amino groups on all the MOFs studied are not acting as Brønsted bases; instead they control the microsolvation environment at the Zr -node active site and therefore increase the overall catalytic rates.
Mononuclear and dinuclear copper species were synthesized at the nodes of an NU-1000 metal–organic framework (MOF) via cation exchange and subsequent oxidation at 200 °C in oxygen. Copper-exchanged MOFs are active for selectively converting methane to methanol at 150–200 °C. At 150 °C and 1 bar methane, approximately a third of the copper centers are involved in converting methane to methanol. Methanol productivity increased by 3–4-fold and selectivity increased from 70% to 90% by increasing the methane pressure from 1 to 40 bar. Density functional theory showed that reaction pathways on various copper sites are able to convert methane to methanol, the copper oxyl sites with much lower free energies of activation. Combining studies of the stoichiometric activity with characterization by in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy and density functional theory, we conclude that dehydrated dinuclear copper oxyl sites formed after activation at 200 °C are responsible for the activity.
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