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Supported Au Nanoparticles with N‑Heterocyclic Carbene Ligands as Active and Stable Heterogeneous Catalysts for Lactonization


Attachment of N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) on the surface of metal nanoparticle (NP) catalysts permits fine-tuning of catalytic activity and product selectivity. Yet, NHC-coated Au NPs have been seldom used in catalysis beyond hydrogenation chemistry. One challenge in this field has been to develop a platform that permits arbitrary ligand modification without having to compromise NP stability toward aggregation or leaching. Herein, we exploit the strategy of supported dendrimer-encapsulated metal clusters (DEMCs) to achieve aggregation-stable yet active heterogeneous Au NP catalysts with NHC ligands. Dendrimers function as aggregation-inhibitors during the NP synthesis, and NHCs, well-known for their strong attachment to the gold surface, provide a handle to modify the stereochemistry, stereoelectronics, and chemical functionality of the NP surface. Indeed, compared to "ligandless" Au NPs which are virtually inactive below 80 °C, the NHC-ligated Au NP catalysts enable a model lactonization reaction to proceed at 20 °C on the same time scale (hours). Based on Eyring analysis, proto-deauration is the turnover-limiting step accelerated by the NHC ligands. Furthermore, the use of chiral NHCs led to asymmetric induction (up to 16% enantiomeric excess) in the lactonization transformations, which demonstrates the potential of supported DEMCs with ancillary ligands in enantioselective catalysis.

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