Visible-Light-Driven, Iridium-Catalyzed Hydrogen Atom Transfer: Mechanistic Studies, Identification of Intermediates, and Catalyst Improvements

Yoonsu Park, Lei Tian, Sangmin Kim, Tyler P. Pabst, Junho Kim, Gregory D. Scholes, Paul J. Chirik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The harvesting of visible light is a powerful strategy for the synthesis of weak chemical bonds involving hydrogen that are below the thermodynamic threshold for spontaneous H2evolution. Piano-stool iridium hydride complexes are effective for the blue-light-driven hydrogenation of organic substrates and contra-thermodynamic dearomative isomerization. In this work, a combination of spectroscopic measurements, isotopic labeling, structure-reactivity relationships, and computational studies has been used to explore the mechanism of these stoichiometric and catalytic reactions. Photophysical measurements on the iridium hydride catalysts demonstrated the generation of long-lived excited states with principally metal-to-ligand charge transfer (MLCT) character. Transient absorption spectroscopic studies with a representative substrate, anthracene revealed a diffusion-controlled dynamic quenching of the MLCT state. The triplet state of anthracene was detected immediately after the quenching events, suggesting that triplet-triplet energy transfer initiated the photocatalytic process. The key role of triplet anthracene on the post-energy transfer step was further demonstrated by employing photocatalytic hydrogenation with a triplet photosensitizer and a HAT agent, hydroquinone. DFT calculations support a concerted hydrogen atom transfer mechanism in lieu of stepwise electron/proton or proton/electron transfer pathways. Kinetic monitoring of the deactivation channel established an inverse kinetic isotope effect, supporting reversible C(sp2)-H reductive coupling followed by rate-limiting ligand dissociation. Mechanistic insights enabled design of a piano-stool iridium hydride catalyst with a rationally modified supporting ligand that exhibited improved photostability under blue light irradiation. The complex also provided improved catalytic performance toward photoinduced hydrogenation with H2and contra-thermodynamic isomerization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-418
Number of pages12
JournalJACS Au
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 28 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


  • catalysis
  • iridium
  • kinetic isotope effect
  • photoreduction
  • proton coupled electron transfer
  • ultrafast spectroscopy
  • weak bonds


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