Methane-to-methanol oxidation by the hydrated iron(IV) oxo species in aqueous solution: a combined DFT and car-parrinello molecular dynamics study

J Am Chem Soc. 2004 Apr 7;126(13):4355-65. doi: 10.1021/ja038865a.


Previously, we have shown that the ferryl ion ([FeIVO]2+) is easily produced from Fenton's reagent (i.e., a mixture of Fe2+ ions and H2O2 in aqueous solution), using DFT and Car-Parrinello MD calculations. To verify that the ferryl ion can indeed act as the active species in oxidation reactions with Fenton's reagent, we study in the present paper the reactivity of the ferryl ion toward an organic substrate, in particular the oxidation of methane to methanol. In the first part of this paper, we perform static DFT calculations on the reaction of CH4 with the [(H2O)5FeIVO]2+ complex in vacuo that show a strong prevalence of the oxygen-rebound mechanism over the methane coordination mechanism. This is in agreement with the static DFT results for methane oxidation by biocatalysts MMO and P450, but not with those for methane oxidation by bare metal-oxo ions, where the methane coordination mechanism prevails. The highest energy barrier in the oxygen-rebound mechanism is only 3 kcal/mol in vacuo, whereas in the methane coordination mechanism the highest barrier is 23 kcal/mol. Overall the oxidation reaction energy is downhill by 47 kcal/mol. We conclude that the ferryl ion can indeed act as the oxidative intermediate in the Fenton oxidation of organic species. In the second part of this paper, we perform a preliminary assessment of solvent effects on the oxidation by the ferryl ion in aqueous solution using the method of constrained (first principles) molecular dynamics. The free energy barrier of the H-abstraction reaction from methane by the ferryl ion (i.e., the first step in the rebound mechanism) in aqueous solution is, with 22 kcal/mol in solution, significantly higher than in vacuo. Given the fact that methane has a relatively strong C-H bond (ca. 10 kcal/mol stronger than the C-H bonds in the more typical Fenton's reagent substrates), we infer that for many organic substrates oxidation with the ferryl ion as an active intermediate may be a perfectly viable route.