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Dialing in single-site reactivity of a supported calixarene-protected tetrairidium cluster catalyst


A closed Ir4 carbonyl cluster, 1, comprising a tetrahedral metal frame and three sterically bulky tert-butyl-calix[4]arene(OPr)3(OCH2PPh2) (Ph = phenyl; Pr = propyl) ligands at the basal plane, was characterized with variable-temperature 13C NMR spectroscopy, which show the absence of scrambling of the CO ligands at temperatures up to 313 K. This demonstration of distinct sites for the CO ligands was found to extend to the reactivity and catalytic properties, as shown by selective decarbonylation in a reaction with trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) as an oxidant, which, reacting in the presence of ethylene, leads to the selective bonding of an ethyl ligand at the apical Ir site. These clusters were supported intact on porous silica and found to catalyze ethylene hydrogenation, and a comparison of the kinetics of the single-hydrogenation reaction and steady-state hydrogenation catalysis demonstrates a unique single-site catalyst-with each site having the same catalytic activity. Reaction orders in the catalytic ethylene hydrogenation reaction of approximately 1/2 and 0 for H2 and C2H4, respectively, nearly match those for conventional noble-metal catalysts. In contrast to oxidative decarbonylation, thermal desorption of CO from silica-supported cluster 1 occurred exclusively at the basal plane, giving rise to sites that do not react with ethylene and are catalytically inactive for ethylene hydrogenation. The evidence of distinctive sites on the cluster catalyst leads to a model that links to hydrogen-transfer catalysis on metals-involving some surface sites that bond to both hydrocarbon and hydrogen and are catalytically engaged (so-called "*" sites) and others, at the basal plane, which bond hydrogen and CO but not hydrocarbon and are reservoir sites (so-called "S" sites).

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