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Mechanistic Similarities and Differences for Hydrogenation of Aromatic Heterocycles and Aliphatic Carbonyls on Sulfided Ru Nanoparticles
ACS Catalysis  (IF13.084),  Pub Date : 2021-09-30, DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.1c01925
Haiting Cai, Roberto Schimmenti, Matthew V. Gradiski, Robert H. Morris, Manos Mavrikakis, Ya-Huei Cathy Chin

This study establishes the contrasting reactivity trends for the hydrogenation of aromatic hydrocarbons (AHCs = CnHmX, X = N, S, O, and C) and aliphatic carbonyls [RaC(O)Rb; Ra = alkyl group, Rb = CH3 or H] on sulfided Ru clusters arising from the difference in the elementary proton and hydride attack catalytic sequence. Both reactions require sequential additions of a proton from either Run+–(SH2) or S2––(Hδ+) species and a hydride from Run+–(Hδ−) species to the unsaturated C═X bonds. For the five-membered-ring aromatic heterocycles (AHCs = pyrrole, thiophene, and furan), an initial proton addition limits the catalytic turnovers; thus, their hydrogenation reactivity increases with increasing gas-phase proton affinities of the AHCs. Pyridine as the more basic six-membered N-AHC is more susceptible to protonation; therefore, it is more reactive, and its initial proton addition is quasi-equilibrated, followed by the kinetically relevant hydride addition. Conversely, aliphatic carbonyls prefer to undergo hydrogen additions in a reverse sequence, where a Run+–(Hδ−) hydride initially attacks the electron-deficient carbonyl C atom as the kinetically relevant step before a subsequent rapid S2––(Hδ+) proton addition on the electron-rich O atom, as confirmed by isotopic exchange studies with butanal-D2 and 1-butanol-D2 mixtures and density functional theory calculations on S-deficient RuS2(100) surfaces. For these reasons, their hydrogenation reactivity increases with increasing gas-phase hydride affinities of the carbonyls. On metallic Ru surfaces without sulfur, hydrogen adatoms (H*) are the only reactive hydrogen species; the reactivity of their attack on aromatic heterocycles increases with increasing reactant proton affinities much more sensitively than that on sulfided Ru surfaces. This work illustrates the distinct catalytic roles of the diverse hydrogen species in hydrogenation—the interplay between proton and hydride additions has marked catalytic consequences in shaping the free energy landscape of the reactions, which in turn leads to the observed kinetic dependences, kinetic parameters, reactivity trends, and scaling relations between the measured barriers and the appropriate kinetic descriptors, that is, proton affinity of AHCs and hydride affinity of carbonyls in hydrogenation catalysis. These mechanistic similarities and differences provide explanations of the observed reactivity trends and thus have profound implications for industrial hydrogenation and hydrotreating catalysis.