Selective Dehydrogenation of Formic Acid Catalyzed by Air-Stable Cuboidal PN Molybdenum Sulfide Clusters

María Gutiérrez-Blanco, Carolin A.M. Stein, Carmina Alfonso, Eva Guillamón, Vicent S. Safont, Iván Sorribes, Henrik Junge, Matthias Beller, Rosa Llusar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Formic acid is considered as a promising hydrogen storage material in the context of a green hydrogen economy. In this work, we present a series of aminophosphino and imidazolylamino Mo3S4 cuboidal clusters which are active and selective for formic acid dehydrogenation (FAD). Best results are obtained with the new [Mo3S4Cl3(ediprp)3](BPh4) (4(BPh4)) (ediprp=(2-(diisopropylphosphino)ethylamine)) cluster, which is prepared through a simple ligand exchange process from the Mo3S4Cl4(PPh3)3(H2O)2 precursor. Under the conditions investigated, complex 4+ showed significantly improved performance (TOF=4048 h−1 and 3743 h−1 at 120 °C in propylene carbonate using N,N-dimethyloctylamine as base after 10 min and 15 min, respectively) compared to the other reported molybdenum compounds. Mechanistic investigations based on stoichiometric and catalytic experiments show that cluster 4+ reacts with formic acid in the presence of a base to form formate substituted species [Mo3S4Cl3-x(OCOH)x(ediprp)3]+ (x=1–3) from which the catalytic cycle starts. Subsequently, formate decarboxylation of the partially substituted [Mo3S4Cl3-x(OCOH)x(ediprp)3]+ (x=1, 2, 3) catalyst through a β-hydride transfer to the metal generates the trinuclear Mo3S4 cluster hydride. Dehydrogenation takes place through protonation by HCOOH to form Mo−H⋅⋅⋅HCOOH dihydrogen adducts, with regeneration of the Mo3S4 formate cluster. This proposal has been validated by DFT calculations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere202300740
Issue number20
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • dehydrogenation
  • formic acid
  • homogeneous catalysis
  • hydrogen
  • molybdenum sulfide


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