Mechanism-Guided Design of Robust Palladium Catalysts for Selective Aerobic Oxidation of Polyols

Summer Ramsay-Burrough, Daniel P. Marron, Keith C. Armstrong, Trevor J. Del Castillo, Richard N. Zare, Robert M. Waymouth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The palladium complex [(L1)Pd(μ-OAc)]2[OTf]2 (L1 = neocuproine) is a selective catalyst for the aerobic oxidation of vicinal polyols to α-hydroxyketones, but competitive oxidation of the ligand methyl groups limits the turnover number and necessitates high Pd loadings. Replacement of the neocuproine ligand with 2,2′-biquinoline ligands was investigated as a strategy to improve catalyst performance and explore the relationship between ligand structure and reactivity. Evaluation of [(L2)Pd(μ-OAc)]2[OTf]2 (L2 = 2,2′-biquinoline) as a catalyst for aerobic alcohol oxidation revealed a threefold enhancement in turnover number relative to the neocuproine congener, but a much slower rate. Mechanistic studies indicated that the slow rates observed with L2 were a consequence of precipitation of an insoluble trinuclear palladium species─(L2Pd)3(μ-O)22+─formed during catalysis and characterized by high-resolution electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. Density functional theory was used to predict that a sterically modified biquinoline ligand, L3 = 7,7′-di-tert-butyl-2,2′-biquinoline, would disfavor the formation of the trinuclear (LPd)3(μ-O)22+ species. This design strategy was validated as catalytic aerobic oxidation with [(L3)Pd(μ-OAc)]2[OTf]2 is both robust and rapid, marrying the kinetics of the parent L1-supported system with the high aerobic turnover numbers of the L2-supported system. Changes in ligand structure were also found to modulate regioselectivity in the oxidation of complex glycoside substrates, providing new insights into structure-selectivity relationships with this class of catalysts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2282-2293
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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