Photocatalytic Chemoselective C-C Bond Cleavage at Room Temperature in Dye-Sensitized Photoelectrochemical Cells

Shuya Li, Saerona Kim, Andrew H. Davis, Jingshun Zhuang, Eric Wolfgang Shuler, Debora Willinger, Jae Joon Lee, Weiwei Zheng, Benjamin D. Sherman, Chang Geun Yoo, Gyu Leem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Selective cleavage of C-C bonds can be a valuable tool for various applications including polymer degradation and biomass utilization. Performing chemical transformations involving C-C bond cleavage steps under mild conditions and ambient temperature remains challenging due to the high dissociation energies of the C-C bond. This fundamental challenge can be solved by coupling a dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cell (DSPEC) system, that generally targets the water splitting reaction, with a hydrogen atom transfer (HAT) mediator (HAT-DSPEC). Here, we report the solar-driven selective cleavage of the C(aryl)-C(alkyl) σ-bond in lignin at ambient temperature using an HAT-DSPEC under redox-neutral conditions. The photocatalyst (bis-2,2′-bipyridine)(2,2′-bipyridine-4,4′-dicarboxylic acid)Ru(II) (RuC) adsorbed onto a TiO2 nanorod array with the length of ∼1.6 μm and a rod diameter of 100 nm atop fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO|TiO2 NRAs|RuC) film was prepared and investigated with an HAT mediator, 4-acetamido 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl (ACT), in solution. Photophysical and electrochemical studies of RuC and ACT with a lignin model compound, 1-(4-hydroxy-3,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-2-(2-methoxyphenoxy) propane-1,3-diol (LMC) reveal that the metal-to-ligand charge transfer (MLCT) excited states from the RuC are efficiently quenched in the presence of ACT with LMC. The HAT-DSPEC photoanode, containing the surface-bound photocatalyst RuC at the photoanode with ACT and LMC in solution, sustained an excellent photocurrent density, significantly outperforming that with the photocatalyst RuC alone. Moreover, the chemoselective cleavage of the C(aryl)-C(alkyl) bond in the LMC at the ambient temperature was demonstrated in the HAT-DSPEC system with a remarkable photocatalytic turnover number (>3000) leading to excellent selectivity (>90%) of C-C bond cleavage under AM1.5G irradiation (1 sun, 100 mW cm-2). These results were obtained over short reaction times and mild, redox-neutral reaction conditions without the need for extended reaction time (e.g., >24 h) or high temperature that is typical of homogeneous catalytic systems. This is the first report to demonstrate that an HAT-DSPEC can serve as a viable method for performing visible-light-driven selective C-C bond cleavage at ambient temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3771-3781
Number of pages11
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2 2021


  • bond cleavage
  • dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cell
  • heterogeneous photocatalysis
  • hydrogen atom transfer
  • lignin
  • solar energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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