Catalyst Stability Determines the Catalytic Activity of Non-Heme Iron Catalysts in the Oxidation of Alkanes



A series of iron(II) bis(triflate) complexes [Fe(L)(OTf)2] containing linear tetradentate bis(pyridylmethyl)diamine ligands with a range of ligand backbones has been prepared. The backbone of the ligand series has been varied from a two-carbon linkage [ethylene (1), 4,5-dichlorophenylene (2) and cyclohexyl (3)] to a three-carbon [propyl (4)) and a four-carbon linkage (butyl (5)]. The coordination geometries of these complexes have been investigated in the solid state by X-ray crystallography and in solution by 1H and 19F NMR spectroscopy. Due to the labile nature of high-spin iron(II) complexes in solution, dynamic equilibria of complexes with different coordination geometries (cis-α, cis-β and trans) are observed with ligands 25. In these cases, the geometry observed in the solid state does not necessarily represent the only or even the major geometry present in solution. The ligand field strength in the various complexes has been investigated by variable temperature magnetic moment measurements and UV-vis spectroscopy. The strongest ligand field is observed with the most rigid ligands 1 and 2, which generate complexes [Fe(L)(OTf)2] with a cis-α coordination geometry and the corresponding complexes [Fe(L)(CH3CN)2]2+ display spin crossover behaviour. The catalytic properties of the complexes for the oxidation of cyclohexane, using hydrogen peroxide as the oxidant, have been investigated. An increased flexibility in the ligand results in a weaker ligand field, which increases the lability of the complexes. The activity and selectivity of the catalysts appear to be related to the strength of the ligand field and the stability of the catalyst in the oxidising environment.