Iron phosphide nanocrystals as an air-stable heterogeneous catalyst for liquid-phase nitrile hydrogenation

T. Tsuda, M. Sheng, H. Ishikawa, S. Yamazoe, J. Yamasaki, M. Hirayama, S. Yamaguchi, T. Mizugaki, T. Mitsudome

Nat. Commun., 14, 5959 (2023).

Iron-based heterogeneous catalysts are ideal metal catalysts owing to their abundance and low-toxicity. However, conventional iron nanoparticle catalysts exhibit extremely low activity in liquid-phase reactions and lack air stability. Previous attempts to encapsulate iron nanoparticles in shell materials toward air stability improvement were offset by the low activity of the iron nanoparticles. To overcome the trade-off between activity and stability in conventional iron nanoparticle catalysts, we developed air-stable iron phosphide nanocrystal catalysts. The iron phosphide nanocrystal exhibits high activity for liquid-phase nitrile hydrogenation, whereas the conventional iron nanoparticles demonstrate no activity. Furthermore, the air stability of the iron phosphide nanocrystal allows facile immobilization on appropriate supports, wherein TiO2 enhances the activity. The resulting TiO2-supported iron phosphide nanocrystal successfully converts various nitriles to primary amines and demonstrates high reusability. The development of air-stable and active iron phosphide nanocrystal catalysts significantly expands the application scope of iron catalysts.