Consecutive Thermal H2 and Light-Induced O2 Evolution from Water Promoted by a Metal Complex

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Science  03 Apr 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5923, pp. 74-77
DOI: 10.1126/science.1168600

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Discovery of an efficient artificial catalyst for the sunlight-driven splitting of water into dioxygen and dihydrogen is a major goal of renewable energy research. We describe a solution-phase reaction scheme that leads to the stoichiometric liberation of dihydrogen and dioxygen in consecutive thermal- and light-driven steps mediated by mononuclear, well-defined ruthenium complexes. The initial reaction of water at 25°C with a dearomatized ruthenium (II) [Ru(II)] pincer complex yields a monomeric aromatic Ru(II) hydrido-hydroxo complex that, on further reaction with water at 100°C, releases H2 and forms a cis dihydroxo complex. Irradiation of this complex in the 320-to-420–nanometer range liberates oxygen and regenerates the starting hydrido-hydroxo Ru(II) complex, probably by elimination of hydrogen peroxide, which rapidly disproportionates. Isotopic labeling experiments with H217O and H218O show unequivocally that the process of oxygen–oxygen bond formation is intramolecular, establishing a previously elusive fundamental step toward dioxygen-generating homogeneous catalysis.

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