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Cobalt Precursors for High-Throughput Discovery of Base Metal Asymmetric Alkene Hydrogenation Catalysts

Science  29 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6162, pp. 1076-1080
DOI: 10.1126/science.1243550

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Lighter Hydrogenation Catalysts

Enzymes have evolved to use abundant metals such as iron, cobalt, and nickel for redox catalysis. However, synthetic catalysis has generally relied on the rarer, heavier relatives of these elements: ruthenium, rhodium, iridium, palladium, and platinum (see the Perspective by Bullock). Friedfeld et al. (p. 1076) used high-throughput screening to show that the right cobalt precursor can be activated for asymmetric hydrogenation catalysis by using the traditional ligands developed for the precious metals. Zuo et al. (p. 1080) focused on iron, demonstrating a highly effective asymmetric transfer hydrogenation catalyst that uses a ligand rationally designed after careful mechanistic study. Jagadeesh et al. (p. 1073) prepared supported iron catalysts that selectively reduce nitro substituents on aromatic rings to amines, thereby facilitating the preparation of a wide range of aniline derivatives.

Abstract

Asymmetric hydrogenation of alkenes is one of the most widely used methods for the preparation of single enantiomer compounds, especially in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries. For more than four decades, precious metal complexes containing rhodium, iridium, and ruthenium have been predominantly used as catalysts. Here, we report rapid evaluation of libraries of chiral phosphine ligands with a set of simple cobalt precursors. From these studies, base metal precatalysts have been discovered for the hydrogenation of functionalized and unfunctionalized olefins with high enantiomeric excesses, demonstrating the potential utility of more earth-abundant metals in asymmetric hydrogenation.

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