Multiple neighboring active sites of an atomically precise copper nanocluster catalyst for efficient bond-forming reactions

by Atanu Ghosh, Arunachalam Sagadevan, Kathiravan Murugesan, Stefan Adrian F. Nastase, Bholanath Maity, Mohammad Bodiuzzaman, Aleksander Shkurenko, Mohamed Nejib Hedhili, Jun Yin, Omar F. Mohammed, Mohamed Eddaoudi, Luigi Cavallo, Magnus Rueping
Year: 2024 DOI: DOI: 10.1039/D4MH00098F


Atomically precise copper nanoclusters (NCs) are an emerging class of nanomaterials for catalysis. Their versatile core–shell architecture opens the possibility of tailoring their catalytically active sites. Here, we introduce a core–shell copper nanocluster (CuNC), [Cu29(StBu)13Cl5(PPh3)4H10]tBuSO3 (StBu: tert-butylthiol; PPh3: triphenylphosphine), Cu29NC, with multiple accessible active sites on its shell. We show that this nanocluster is a versatile catalyst for C-heteroatom bond formation (C–O, C–N, and C–S) with several advantages over previous Cu systems. When supported, the cluster can also be reused as a heterogeneous catalyst without losing its efficiency, making it a hybrid homogeneous and heterogeneous catalyst. We elucidated the atomic-level mechanism of the catalysis using density functional theory (DFT) calculations based on the single crystal structure. We found that the cooperative action of multiple neighboring active sites is essential for the catalyst's efficiency. The calculations also revealed that oxidative addition is the rate-limiting step that is facilitated by the neighboring active sites of the Cu29NC, which highlights a unique advantage of nanoclusters over traditional copper catalysts. Our results demonstrate the potential of nanoclusters for enabling the rational atomically precise design and investigation of multi-site catalysts.