Bioinspired non-heme iron catalysts for challenging oxidative transformations: mechanistic studies and catalytic applications on selective alkane hydroxylation and alkene cis-dihydroxilation

Prat Casellas, Irene
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The functionalization of hydrocarbons in a sustainable manner is one of the main challenges for chemists. Their abundance in nature as natural gas or crude oil makes them the most convenient chemical feedstock. The oxidation of hydrocarbons is one of the most interesting reactions, because the introduction of an oxygen atom introduces functionality in these molecules, increasing their value as reagents for further chemical transformation. However, these reactions are fundamentally difficult due to the low reactivity of alkyl C-H bonds. Current available methodologies involve highly reactive-oxidizing reagents, high temperatures and long-time reactions in order to overcome this lack of reactivity. These harsh conditions introduce drawbacks in terms of chemo- and regioselectivity, essential to produce synthetic valuable products. An important step forward is the development of one-step oxidation methodologies, allowing the oxidation of C-H and C=C with high regio- and stereoselectivity. Natural systems, such as iron enzymes, are capable of perform this chemistry with high selectivity and efficiency. Iron is the most abundant metallic element in the earth and is essential for live. In addition, this lack of toxicity makes it and attractive material to substitute more toxic and expensive metals currently used. One of the main objective of this thesis is design of iron complexes that mimics the structure and function of these natural enzymes with the aim of find new methodologies for the selective C-H and C=C bond oxidation using green conditions. Furthermore, the study of these compounds could give useful information about the oxidation mechanisms operating in oxygenase enzymes. The results obtained in this thesis clarify the mechanism by which the oxidation of the C-H bond with retention of stereochemistry takes place at a mononuclear non-heme iron site, and evidence the formation of a high valent iron (V) capable of perform the cis-dihydroxylation of alkenes. Furthermore, a new complex is described as an efficient and selective catalyst capable of performing this chemistry in a scale amenable for synthetic applications ​
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