Main-group-element catalysts are a desirable alternative to transition-metal catalysts because of natural abundance and cost. However, the examples are very limited. Catalytic cycles involving a redox process and E-ligand cooperation (E=main-group element), which are often found in catalytic cycles of transition-metal catalysts, have not been reported. Herein theoretical investigations of a catalytic hydrogenation of azobenzene with ammonia–borane using a trivalent phosphorus compound, which was experimentally proposed to occur through PIII/PV redox processes via an unusual pentavalent dihydridophosphorane, were performed. DFT and ONIOM(CCSD(T):MP2) calculations disclosed that this catalytic reaction occurs through a P-O cooperation mechanism, which resembles the metal-ligand cooperation mechanism of transition-metal catalysts.
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