Understanding reaction mechanisms of metal-free dinitrogen activation by methyleneboranes
Dinitrogen activation under mild conditions is important but extremely challenging due to the inert nature of the N-N triple bond evidenced by high bond dissociation energy (945 kJ/mol) and large HOMO-LUMO gap (10.8 eV). In comparison with largely developed transition metal systems, the reported main group species on dinitrogen activation are rare. Here, we carry out density functional theory calculations on methyleneboranes to understand the reaction mechanisms of their dinitrogen activation. It is found that the methyleneboranes without any substituent at the boron atom performs best on dinitrogen activation, which could be contributed to its small singlet-triplet gap. In addition, strong correlations are achieved on dinitrogen activation between the singlet-triplet energy gap and the reaction energies for the formation of the end-on products as well as the side-on ones. The principal interacting orbital analysis suggests that methyleneboranes can mimic transition metals to cleave the N-N triple bond. Our findings could be helpful for experimental chemists aiming at dinitrogen activation by main group species.