Triple-photoinduced electron transfer (tri-PET) catalysis for activation of super strong bonds
Single electron redox processes allow the formation of highly reactive radicals – valuable intermediates that enable unique transformations in organic chemistry (1,2). An established concept to create radical intermediates is photoexcitation of a catalyst to a higher energy intermediate, subsequently leading to a photoinduced electron transfer (PET) with a reaction partner (3–7). The known concept of consecutive photoinduced electron transfer (con PET) leads to catalytically active species even higher in energy by the uptake of two photons (8). This process has already been used widely for catalytic reductions; however, limitations towards strong bonds and electron rich substrates remain (9,10). Generally speaking, increased photon uptake leads to a more potent reductant. Here, we introduce triple-photoinduced electron transfer catalysis, termed tri-PET, enabled by the three-photon uptake of a dye molecule leading to an excited dianionic super-reductant which is more potent than Li metal (11) – one of the strongest chemical reductants known. Irradiation of the metal-free catalyst by violet light enables the cleavage of strong carbon-fluoride bonds and reduction of other halides even in very electron-rich substrates. The resulting radicals are quenched by hydrogen atoms or engaged in carbon-carbon and carbon-phosphorus bond formations, highlighting the utility of tri-PET for organic chemistry. Thorough spectroscopic, chemical and computational investigations are presented to understand this novel mode of photoredox catalysis. The existence of the dianion which takes up a third photon when irradiated was proven by X-ray diffraction analysis.