Ruthenium-Catalyzed Ammonia Borane Dehydrogenation: Mechanism and Utility
Conspectus One of the greatest challenges in using H 2 as a fuel source is finding a safe, efficient, and inexpensive method for its storage. Ammonia borane (AB) is a solid hydrogen storage material that has garnered attention for its high hydrogen weight density (19.6 wt %) and ease of handling and transport. Hydrogen release from ammonia borane is mediated by either hydrolysis, thus giving borate products that are difficult to rereduce, or direct dehydrogenation. Catalytic AB dehydrogenation has thus been a popular topic in recent years, motivated both by applications in hydrogen storage and main group synthetic chemistry. This Account is a complete description of work from our laboratory in ruthenium-catalyzed ammonia borane dehydrogenation over the last 6 years, beginning with the Shvo catalyst and resulting ultimately in the development of optimized, leading catalysts for efficient hydrogen release. We have studied AB dehydrogenation with Shvo’s catalyst extensively and generated a detailed understanding of the role that borazine, a dehydrogenation product, plays in the reaction: it is a poison for both Shvo’s catalyst and PEM fuel cells. Through independent syntheses of Shvo derivatives, we found a protective mechanism wherein catalyst deactivation by borazine is prevented by coordination of a ligand that might otherwise be a catalytic poison. These studies showed how a bidentate N–N ligand can transform the Shvo into a more reactive species for AB dehydrogenation that minimizes accumulation of borazine. Simultaneously, we designed novel ruthenium catalysts that contain a Lewis acidic boron to replace the Shvo -OH proton, thus offering more flexibility to optimize hydrogen release and take on more general problems in hydride abstraction. Our scorpionate-ligated ruthenium species ( 12 ) is a best-of-class catalyst for homogeneous dehydrogenation of ammonia borane in terms of its extent of hydrogen release (4.6 wt %), air tolerance, and reusability. Moreover, a synthetically simplified ruthenium complex supported by the inexpensive bis(pyrazolyl)borate ligand is a comparably good catalyst for AB dehydrogenation, among other reactions. In this Account, we present a detailed, concise description of how our work with the Shvo system progressed to the development of our very reactive and flexible dual-site boron-ruthenium catalysts. Graphic Abstract
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