Reinvestigating catalytic alcohol dehydrogenation with an iridium dihydroxybipyridine catalyst


The examined catalyst [Cp*Ir(H2O)(6,6′-dhbp)]2+ (1; 6,6′-dhbp = 6,6′-dihydroxy-2,2′-bipyridine) was reported in 2012 as a highly efficient (92% conversion) and selective catalyst for the conversion of benzyl alcohol to benzaldehyde as the sole product via acceptorless dehydrogenation. We report herein that the observed conversion and selectivity data are not accurate but may have resulted, in part, from other products being produced that are not easily detected. Specifically, benzoic acid is formed as a byproduct via the disproportionation of benzaldehyde, but at high temperatures, most of the benzoic acid produced is converted in situ to benzene and carbon dioxide. While we can explain the observed selectivity, we cannot explain the observed conversion to products. In our hands, we observed 15% conversion to products under the original conditions. Other alcohol substrates were also examined and gave lower conversion to products and decreased selectivity in comparison with the original report. Acceptorless alcohol dehydrogenation to generate aldehydes is a potentially transformative technology which can allow chemists to replace stoichiometric oxidants that produce waste with efficient catalysts that only generate H2 gas as a byproduct. Thus, clarification of the 2012 report to indicate what conditions can lead to high efficiency and selectivity is a worthy topic of discussion in the literature.

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