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Synthesis, Characterization, and Reactivity of Thiolate-Supported Metalloradicals


Gu, Nina Xiao (2020) Synthesis, Characterization, and Reactivity of Thiolate-Supported Metalloradicals. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/8zwz-gh20.


Reactive metalloradical intermediates have been implicated in both biological and synthetic catalyst systems for small molecule activation processes, including proton reduction and ammonia oxidation. Towards a greater mechanistic understanding of such transformations on well-defined model complexes, this thesis explores relevant H–H and N–N bond-forming reactions mediated by trivalent Fe and Ni species, as well as catalytic N–N bond cleavage mediated by an open-shell VFe bimetallic complex. First, a pair of thiolate-supported, S = ½ iron and nickel hydrides are synthesized and spectroscopically characterized at low temperatures (Chapters 2, 3). Paramagnetic iron and nickel hydrides have been proposed as catalytic intermediates of [NiFe] hydrogenase and nitrogenase, but characterization of such molecular species are limited. For both the FeIII and NiIII hydride complexes described herein, spin delocalization onto the thiolate ligand is proposed to stabilize the formal 3+ metal oxidation state. Furthermore, both the FeIII–H and NiIII–H species are demonstrated to undergo the bimolecular reductive elimination of dihydrogen upon warming, albeit with distinct activation parameters consistent with different proposed pathways for H–H bond formation. Chapter 4 expands upon the H–H bond forming chemistry demonstrated on the Ni system to demonstrate related N–N bond formation from an analogous NiIII–NH2 species, resulting in the formation of a NiII2(N2H4) complex. Given the diverse mechanistic possibilities for the overall 6e-/6H+ transformation to oxidize ammonia to dinitrogen, identification of the active M(NHx) intermediate and pathway for N–N bond formation is a central mechanistic question. While the homocoupling of M–NH2 species to form hydrazine has been hypothesized as the key N–N bond forming step in ammonia oxidation systems, stoichiometric examples of this transformation from M–NH2 complexes are rare. Lastly, Chapter 5 details the synthesis of a heterobimetallic VFe complex featuring a bridging thiolate, inspired by the structure of the VFe nitrogenase cofactor. This VFe species is demonstrated to be an active catalyst for the disproportionation of hydrazine to dinitrogen and ammonia. Notably, the heterobimetallic complex is appreciably more active than monometallic analogues of the individual V and Fe sites, suggesting that bimetallic cooperativity may facilitate the observed catalysis.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Iron; nickel; vanadium; metal hydrides; dihydrogen; ammonia; hydrazine
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Major Option:Chemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Peters, Jonas C.
Thesis Committee:
  • Agapie, Theodor (chair)
  • Hsieh-Wilson, Linda C.
  • Fu, Gregory C.
  • Peters, Jonas C.
Defense Date:9 March 2020
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)DOE-0235032
National Science Foundation Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Dow Next Generation FundUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:04102020-135244808
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription content for Chapter 2. content for Chapter 3. content for Chapter 5.
Gu, Nina Xiao0000-0002-4637-8418
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13672
Deposited By: Nina Gu
Deposited On:21 May 2020 16:55
Last Modified:08 Nov 2023 00:44

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