Using a set of state-of-the-art quantum chemical techniques we scrutinized the characteristically different reactivity of frustrated and classical Lewis pairs towards molecular hydrogen. The mechanisms and reaction profiles computed for the H2 splitting reaction of various Lewis pairs are in good agreement with the experimentally observed feasibility of H2 activation. More importantly, the analysis of activation parameters unambiguously revealed the existence of two reaction pathways through a low-energy and a high-energy transition state. An exhaustive scrutiny of these transition states, including their stability, geometry and electronic structure, reflects that the electronic rearrangement in low-energy transition states is fundamentally different from that of high-energy transition states. Our findings reveal that the widespread consensus mechanism of H2 splitting characterizes activation processes corresponding to high-energy transition states and, accordingly, is not operative for H2-activating systems. One of the criteria of H2-activation, actually, is the availability of a low-energy transition state that represents a different H2 splitting mechanism, in which the electrostatic field generated in the cavity of Lewis pair plays a critical role: to induce a strong polarization of H2 that facilities an efficient end-on acid-H2 interaction and to stabilize the charge separated “H+–H−” moiety in the transition state.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6024
Number of pages15
JournalScientific Reports - Nature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017

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