Cobalt-Catalyzed Asymmetric Hydrogenation of α,β-Unsaturated Carboxylic Acids by Homolytic H2 Cleavage

Hongyu Zhong, Michael Shevlin, Paul J. Chirik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The asymmetric hydrogenation of α,β-unsaturated carboxylic acids using readily prepared bis(phosphine) cobalt(0) 1,5-cyclooctadiene precatalysts is described. Di-, tri-, and tetra-substituted acrylic acid derivatives with various substitution patterns as well as dehydro-α-amino acid derivatives were hydrogenated with high yields and enantioselectivities, affording chiral carboxylic acids including Naproxen, (S)-Flurbiprofen, and a d-DOPA precursor. Turnover numbers of up to 200 were routinely obtained. Compatibility with common organic functional groups was observed with the reduced cobalt(0) precatalysts, and protic solvents such as methanol and isopropanol were identified as optimal. A series of bis(phosphine) cobalt(II) bis(pivalate) complexes, which bear structural similarity to state-of-the-art ruthenium(II) catalysts, were synthesized, characterized, and proved catalytically competent. X-band EPR experiments revealed bis(phosphine)cobalt(II) bis(carboxylate)s were generated in catalytic reactions and were identified as catalyst resting states. Isolation and characterization of a cobalt(II)-substrate complex from a stoichiometric reaction suggests that alkene insertion into the cobalt hydride occurred in the presence of free carboxylic acid, producing the same alkane enantiomer as that from the catalytic reaction. Deuterium labeling studies established homolytic H2 (or D2) activation by Co(0) and cis addition of H2 (or D2) across alkene double bonds, reminiscent of rhodium(I) catalysts but distinct from ruthenium(II) and nickel(II) carboxylates that operate by heterolytic H2 cleavage pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5272-5281
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 18 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Cobalt-Catalyzed Asymmetric Hydrogenation of α,β-Unsaturated Carboxylic Acids by Homolytic H2 Cleavage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this