Kuntal Manna (co-first), Pengfei Ji (co-first), Zekai Lin, Francis X. Greene, Ania Urban, Nathan C. Thacker & Wenbin Lin
Earth-abundant metal catalysts are critically needed for sustainable chemical synthesis. Here we report a simple, cheap and effective strategy of producing novel earth-abundant metal catalysts at metal–organic framework (MOF) nodes for broad-scope organic transformations. The straightforward metalation of MOF secondary building units (SBUs) with cobalt and iron salts affords highly active and reusable single-site solid catalysts for a range of organic reactions, including chemoselective borylation, silylation and amination of benzylic C–H bonds, as well as hydrogenation and hydroboration of alkenes and ketones. Our structural, spectroscopic and kinetic studies suggest that chemoselective organic transformations occur on site-isolated, electron-deficient and coordinatively unsaturated metal centres at the SBUs via σ-bond metathesis pathways and as a result of the steric environment around the catalytic site. MOFs thus provide a novel platform for the development of highly active and affordable base metal catalysts for the sustainable synthesis of fine chemicals.