Electrochemical Reduction of CO2 Catalyzed by Re(pyridine-oxazoline)(CO)3Cl Complexes

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A series of rhenium tricarbonyl complexes coordinated by asymmetric diimine ligands containing a pyridine moiety bound to an oxazoline ring were synthesized, structurally and electrochemically characterized, and screened for CO2 reduction ability. The reported complexes are of the type Re(N-N)(CO)3Cl, with N-N = 2-(pyridin-2-yl)-4,5-dihydrooxazole (1), 5-methyl-2-(pyridin-2-yl)-4,5-dihydrooxazole (2), and 5-phenyl-2-(pyridin-2-yl)-4,5-dihydrooxazole (3). The electrocatalytic reduction of CO2 by these complexes was observed in a variety of solvents and proceeds more quickly in acetonitrile than in dimethylformamide (DMF) and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). The analysis of the catalytic cycle for electrochemical CO2 reduction by 1 in acetonitrile using density functional theory (DFT) supports the C–O bond cleavage step being the rate-determining step (RDS) (ΔG⧧ = 27.2 kcal mol–1). The dependency of the turnover frequencies (TOFs) on the donor number (DN) of the solvent also supports that C–O bond cleavage is the rate-determining step. Moreover, the calculations using explicit solvent molecules indicate that the solvent dependence likely arises from a protonation-first mechanism. Unlike other complexes derived from fac-Re(bpy)(CO)3Cl (I; bpy = 2,2′-bipyridine), in which one of the pyridyl moieties in the bpy ligand is replaced by another imine, no catalytic enhancement occurs during the first reduction potential. Remarkably, catalysts 1 and 2 display relative turnover frequencies, (icat/ip)2, up to 7 times larger than that of I.