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  1. Abstract

    Significant progress has been made in the bioinorganic modeling of the paramagnetic states believed to be involved in the hydrogen redox chemistry catalyzed by [NiFe] hydrogenase. However, the characterization and isolation of intermediates involved in mononuclear Ni electrocatalysts which are reported to operate through a NiI/IIIcycle have largely remained elusive. Herein, we report a NiIIcomplex (NCHS2)Ni(OTf)2, where NCHS2 is 3,7-dithia-1(2,6)-pyridina-5(1,3)-benzenacyclooctaphane, that is an efficient electrocatalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) with turnover frequencies of ~3,000 s−1and a overpotential of 670 mV in the presence of trifluoroacetic acid. This electrocatalyst follows a hitherto unobserved HER mechanism involving C-H activation, which manifests as an inverse kinetic isotope effect for the overall hydrogen evolution reaction, and NiI/NiIIIintermediates, which have been characterized by EPR spectroscopy. We further validate the possibility of the involvement of NiIIIintermediates by the independent synthesis and characterization of organometallic NiIIIcomplexes.

     
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  2. Nickel K- and L 2,3 -edge X-ray absorption spectra (XAS) are discussed for 16 complexes and complex ions with nickel centers spanning a range of formal oxidation states from II to IV. K-edge XAS alone is shown to be an ambiguous metric of physical oxidation state for these Ni complexes. Meanwhile, L 2,3 -edge XAS reveals that the physical d-counts of the formally Ni IV compounds measured lie well above the d 6 count implied by the oxidation state formalism. The generality of this phenomenon is explored computationally by scrutinizing 8 additional complexes. The extreme case of NiF 6 2− is considered using high-level molecular orbital approaches as well as advanced valence bond methods. The emergent electronic structure picture reveals that even highly electronegative F-donors are incapable of supporting a physical d 6 Ni IV center. The reactivity of Ni IV complexes is then discussed, highlighting the dominant role of the ligands in this chemistry over that of the metal centers. 
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