Electronic Structure of a Cu(II)-Alkoxide Complex Modeling Intermediates in Copper-Catalyzed Alcohol Oxidations

J Am Chem Soc. 2016 Mar 30;138(12):4132-45. doi: 10.1021/jacs.5b13088. Epub 2016 Mar 18.


In the copper-catalyzed oxidation of alcohols to aldehydes, a Cu(II)-alkoxide (Cu(II)-OR) intermediate is believed to modulate the αC-H bond strength of the deprotonated substrate to facilitate the oxidation. As a structural model for these intermediates, we characterized the electronic structure of the stable compound Tp(tBu)Cu(II)(OCH2CF3) (Tp(tBu) = hydro-tris(3-tert-butyl-pyrazolyl)borate) and investigated the influence of the trifluoroethoxide ligand on the electronic structure of the complex. The compound exhibits an electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectrum with an unusually large gzz value of 2.44 and a small copper hyperfine coupling Azz of 40 × 10(-4) cm(-1) (120 MHz). Single-crystal electron nuclear double resonance (ENDOR) spectra show that the unpaired spin population is highly localized on the copper ion (≈68%), with no more than 15% on the ethoxide oxygen. Electronic absorption and magnetic circular dichroism (MCD) spectra show weak ligand-field transitions between 5000 and 12,000 cm(-1) and an intense ethoxide-to-copper charge transfer (LMCT) transition at 24,000 cm(-1), resulting in the red color of this complex. Resonance Raman (rR) spectroscopy reveals a Cu-O stretch mode at 592 cm(-1). Quantum chemical calculations support the interpretation and assignment of the experimental data. Compared to known Cu(II)-thiolate and Cu(II)-alkylperoxo complexes from the literature, we found an increased σ interaction in the Cu(II)-OR bond that results in the spectroscopic features. These insights lay the basis for further elucidating the mechanism of copper-catalyzed alcohol oxidations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / chemistry
  • Alcohols / metabolism*
  • Catalysis
  • Coordination Complexes / chemistry*
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxides / chemistry*
  • Oxides / metabolism
  • Quantum Theory


  • Alcohols
  • Coordination Complexes
  • Oxides
  • Copper