Research Article

MOF-derived cobalt nanoparticles catalyze a general synthesis of amines

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Science  20 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6361, pp. 326-332
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6245

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A MOF sets the stage to make amines

Reductive amination is a common method that chemists use to make carbon-nitrogen bonds. The reaction, which often requires precious metal catalysts, couples ammonia or other amines with carbonyl compounds and then with hydrogen. Jagadeesh et al. report a class of nonprecious cobalt nanoparticles that catalyze this reaction across a very broad range of substrates, including complex molecules of pharmaceutical interest (see the Perspective by Chen and Xu). The cobalt was first embedded in a metal-organic framework (MOF), which, upon heating, transformed into a graphitic shell. The catalyst could be conveniently separated from products and recycled up to six times.

Science, this issue p. 326; see also p. 304


The development of base metal catalysts for the synthesis of pharmaceutically relevant compounds remains an important goal of chemical research. Here, we report that cobalt nanoparticles encapsulated by a graphitic shell are broadly effective reductive amination catalysts. Their convenient and practical preparation entailed template assembly of cobalt-diamine-dicarboxylic acid metal organic frameworks on carbon and subsequent pyrolysis under inert atmosphere. The resulting stable and reusable catalysts were active for synthesis of primary, secondary, tertiary, and N-methylamines (more than 140 examples). The reaction couples easily accessible carbonyl compounds (aldehydes and ketones) with ammonia, amines, or nitro compounds, and molecular hydrogen under industrially viable and scalable conditions, offering cost-effective access to numerous amines, amino acid derivatives, and more complex drug targets.

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