Hydrogen generation from weak acids: electrochemical and computational studies in the [(η5-C5H5)Fe(CO) 2]2 system

Greg A.N. Felton, Aaron K. Vannucci, Noriko Okumura, L. Tori Lockett, Dennis H. Evans, Richard S. Glass, Dennis L. Lichtenberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


5-C5H5)Fe(CO)2H (FpH) is stable to weak acids such as acetic acid. However, reduction of FpH in acetonitrile in the presence of weak acids generates H2 catalytically. Evidence for the catalytic generation of H2 from just water also is observed. Since reduction of Fp2 generates Fp -, which can be protonated with weak acids, Fp2 serves as a convenient procatalyst for the electrocatalytic production of H2. Electrochemical simulations provide values for the key parameters of a catalytic mechanism for production of H2 in this system. Protonation of Fp- is found to be the rate-determining step preceding H2 production. The wealth of structural, spectroscopic, and thermodynamic information available on the key Fp2, Fp-, and FpH species provide a variety of checkpoints for computational modeling of the catalytic mechanism. The computations give good agreement with the crystal structure of Fp2, the IR spectra of Fp2, Fp-, and FpH, and the photoelectron spectra of Fp2 and FpH. The computations also account well for the reduction potentials and equilibrium constants in the electrochemical simulations. The FpH- anion is found to be susceptible to a direct and rapid attack by a proton to produce H2 and the Fp radical, which is then reduced and protonated to continue the electrocatalytic cycle. This direct energetically downhill step of metal hydride protonation to produce molecular hydrogen may be common for sufficiently electron rich metal hydrides and/or sufficiently strong acids among many of the hydrogenase mimics reported thus far.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4671-4679
Number of pages9
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 22 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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