Reactivity and Properties of the PN 3P Pincer Platform Insights from Computations and Spectroscopy

  • Kristin Munkerup

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Abstract: Pincer compounds are organometallic complexes with intriguing tunable reactivities. In this work we explore their unique properties and reactivities through spectroscopic and computational investigations, with a focus on the PN3P pincer platform. First, we conducted a computational study on five pincer complexes with stereogenic phosphine arms that have multiple well-defined rotamers. Significant energy differences could be found between the lowest and highest energy rotamer in each set of pincer complexes. All rotamers for reactant, transition state, and product, were evaluated in a reaction energy profile of a CO2 reduction by a pincer nickel hydride, and we found that this reaction could be found either favorable or unfavorable, depending on the choice of rotamer. A software to generate rotamers has been developed and applied to the work presented in this part. The zwitterionic aromatic resonance form has a large contribution in the dearomatized PN3P* nickel pincer complexes, which is demonstrated by the imine arm's ability to act as an organic σ-donor, similar to NHC catalysts. Related to this property, as well as the pincer compound's ability to undergo metal-ligand cooperation catalysis, is the basicity (or acidity) of pincer ligand spacer arms. Therefore, we have determined the Brønsted basicity of the imine arm in three PN3P* nickel pincer complexes in THF. The relative basicity was found to be strongly influenced by the X ligand trans to the PN3P* ligand, and less by alkyl groups on phosphine donor arms. Finally, we explored the reactivity between a PN3P* rhodium carbonyl pincer complex and dioxygen at room temperature in solution, and at elevated temperature in the solid state. Intriguingly, the singlet PN3P* rhodium carbonyl complex reacts with the triplet dioxygen both in solution and in the solid state to afford oxidation on the ligand backbone. This is possible due to the ligands ability to do a single-electron transfer to dioxygen. The solid state reaction was studied with in situ rhodium K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy under dioxygen flow, where an isobestic point was observed, and simulation studies support formation of a Rh-O2 adduct. In situ FTIR studies in a static dioxygen environment revealed that the PN3P* rhodium carbonyl complex is able to facilitate the incorporation of O2 into CO and CO2.
Date of AwardAug 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorKuo-Wei Huang (Supervisor)


  • Conformational Analysis
  • Acidity constauts pincer
  • redox-active ligand
  • oxygen

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