A Reusable CNT-Supported Single-Atom Iron Catalyst for the Highly Efficient Synthesis of C−N Bonds

Qifeng Ding, Yang Yu, Fei Huang, Lihui Zhang, Jian-Guo Zheng, Mingjie Xu, Jonathan B. Baell, He Huang

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C−N bond formation is regarded as a very useful and fundamental reaction for the synthesis of nitrogen-containing molecules in both organic and pharmaceutical chemistry. Noble-metal and homogeneous catalysts have frequently been used for C−N bond formation, however, these catalysts have a number of disadvantages, such as high cost, toxicity, and low atom economy. In this work, a low-toxic and cheap iron complex (iron ethylene-1,2-diamine) has been loaded onto carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to prepare a heterogeneous single-atom catalyst (SAC) named Fe-Nx/CNTs. We employed this SAC in the synthesis of C−N bonds for the first time. It was found that Fe-Nx/CNTs is an efficient catalyst for the synthesis of C−N bonds starting from aromatic amines and ketones. Its catalytic performance was excellent, giving yields of up to 96 %, six-fold higher than the yields obtained with noble-metal catalysts, such as AuCl3/CNTs and RhCl3/CNTs. The catalyst showed efficacy in the reactions of thirteen aromatic amine substrates, without the need for additives, and seventeen enaminones were obtained. High-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy in combination with X-ray absorption spectroscopy revealed that the iron species were well dispersed in the Fe-Nx/CNTs catalyst as single atoms and that Fe-Nx might be the catalytic active species. This Fe-Nx/CNTs catalyst has potential industrial applications as it could be cycled seven times without any significant loss of activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4592-4598
Number of pages7
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2020


  • carbon
  • C−N bond formation
  • iron
  • nanotubes
  • single-atom catalysts

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