Controlling the nucleophilic properties of cobalt salen complexes for carbon dioxide capture


The nucleophilic properties of cobalt salen complexes are examined using density functional theory to investigate its carbon fixing capacity. In particular, carbon dioxide attack on neutral and anionic cobalt salen molecules is considered. Carbon fixation occurs for the anionic cobalt salen complex and is due to the nucleophilic interaction between the cobalt center and carbon dioxide molecule in a Co dz²–CO₂ π* interaction. A minimum energy path search by a nudged elastic band calculation reveals a lower forward activation energy for the anionic complex than the neutral complex, indicating that the formation of the anionic complex is thermodynamically and kinetically favored. In this case, the CO₂ molecule is chemisorbed as partial charge transfer from the cobalt center to carbon dioxide is observed. Proposed reaction mechanisms explain how the Co–C bond energy of the CO₂–cobalt salen complex can be tuned by appropriate substitutions of electron donating or withdrawing groups on the phenyl ring.