Spectroscopic Analyses on Reaction Intermediates Formed during Chlorination of Alkanes with NaOCl Catalyzed by a Nickel Complex

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The spectroscopic, electrochemical, and crystallographic characterization of [(Me,HPyTACN)NiII(CH3CN)2](OTf)2 (1) (Me,HPyTACN = 1-(2-pyridylmethyl)-4,7-dimethyl-1,4,7-triazacyclononane, OTf = CF3SO3) is described together with its reactivity with NaOCl. 1 catalyzes the chlorination of alkanes with NaOCl, producing only a trace amount of oxygenated byproducts. The reaction was monitored spectroscopically and by high resolution electrospray-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) with the aim to elucidate mechanistic aspects. NaOCl reacts with 1 in acetonitrile to form the transient species [(L)NiII-OCl(S)]+ (A) (L = Me,HPyTACN, S = solvent), which was identified by ESI-MS. UV/vis absorption, electron paramagnetic resonance, and resonance Raman spectroscopy indicate that intermediate A decays to the complex [(L)NiIII-OH(S)]2+ (B) presumably through homolytic cleavage of the O-Cl bond, which liberates a Cl• atom. Hydrolysis of acetonitrile to acetic acid under the applied conditions results in the formation of [(L)NiIII-OOCCH3(S)]2+ (C), which undergoes subsequent reduction to [(L)NiII-OOCCH3(S)]2+ (D), presumably via reaction with OCl- or ClO2 -. Subsequent addition of NaOCl to [(L)NiII-OOCCH3(S)]+ (D) regenerates [(L)NiIII-OH(S)]2+ (B) to a much greater extent and at a faster rate. Addition of acids such as acetic and triflic acid enhances the rate and extent of formation of [(L)NiIII-OH(S)]2+ (B) from 1, suggesting that O-Cl homolytic cleavage is accelerated by protonation. Overall, these reactions generate Cl• atoms and ClO2 in a catalytic cycle where the nickel center alternates between Ni(II) and Ni(III). Chlorine atoms in turn react with the C-H bonds of alkanes, forming alkyl radicals that are trapped by Cl• to form alkyl chlorides ​
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