Hemilabile Bridging Thiolates as Proton Shuttles in Bioinspired H2 Production Electrocatalysts. Academic Article uri icon


  • Synthetic analogues and computationally assisted structure-function analyses have been used to explore the features that control proton-electron and proton-hydride coupling in electrocatalysts inspired by the [NiFe]-hydrogenase active site. Of the bimetallic complexes derived from aggregation of the dithiolato complexes MN2S2 (N2S2 = bismercaptoethane diazacycloheptane; M = Ni or Fe(NO)) with (5-C5H5)Fe(CO)+ (the Fe' component) or (5-C5H5)Fe(CO)2+, Fe, which yielded Ni-Fe'+, Fe-Fe'+, Ni-Fe+, and Fe-Fe+, respectively, both Ni-Fe'+ and Fe-Fe'+ were determined to be active electrocatalysts for H2 production in the presence of trifluoroacetic acid. Correlations of electrochemical potentials and H2 generation are consistent with calculated parameters in a predicted mechanism that delineates the order of addition of electrons and protons, the role of the redox-active, noninnocent NO ligand in electron uptake, the necessity for Fe'-S bond breaking (or the hemilability of the metallodithiolate ligand), and hydride-proton coupling routes. Although the redox active {Fe(NO)}7 moiety can accept and store an electron and subsequently a proton (forming the relatively unstable Fe-bound HNO), it cannot form a hydride as the NO shields the Fe from protonation. Successful coupling occurs from a hydride on Fe' with a proton on thiolate S and requires a propitious orientation of the H-S bond that places H+ and H- within coupling distance. This orientation and coupling barrier are redox-level dependent. While the Ni-Fe' derivative has vacant sites on both metals for hydride formation, the uptake of the required electron is more energy intensive than that in Fe-Fe' featuring the noninnocent NO ligand. The Fe'-S bond cleavage facilitated by the hemilability of thiolate to produce a terminal thiolate as a proton shuttle is a key feature in both mechanisms. The analogous Fe-S bond cleavage on Ni-Fe leads to degradation.

published proceedings

  • J Am Chem Soc

author list (cited authors)

  • Ding, S., Ghosh, P., Lunsford, A. M., Wang, N., Bhuvanesh, N., Hall, M. B., & Darensbourg, M. Y.

citation count

  • 69

complete list of authors

  • Ding, Shengda||Ghosh, Pokhraj||Lunsford, Allen M||Wang, Ning||Bhuvanesh, Nattamai||Hall, Michael B||Darensbourg, Marcetta Y

publication date

  • October 2016