Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher C. Landry


It was recently shown that V-doped acid-prepared mesoporous silica (APMS) nanoparticles are active catalysts for the oxidation of the mustard gas analogue 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide (CEES) under ambient conditions in the presence of aldehydes, using O2 from air as the oxidation source. However, the vanadium ion leached from the surface when water was present, leading to decreased catalytic activity. Therefore, in this work, the environment around the vanadium is changed, using diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid (dtpa) as a ligand and anchoring it to the surface of a mesoporous silica nanoparticle, to investigate its effect on vanadium’s ability to perform oxidation reactions.

VO(dtpa)-APMS was synthesized by covalently linking the multi-dentate chelator dtpa onto the surface through peptide coupling of one of the acetate groups to aminopropyltriethoxysilane (APTES), condensing the dtpa-APTES molecule onto the mesoporous silica surface, and then exchanging a vanadyl salt into the resulting solid. Physical characterization of the material confirmed that the substrate retained its porosity after modification, and that the vanadium did not leach from the solid, in contrast to samples that did not contain dtpa. Solid-state EPR spectroscopy, combined with ongoing computational modeling, indicated that the vanadium was in a distorted five-coordinate environment.

Various vanadium catalysts have been shown to oxidize alkanes, alkenes, alcohols and aromatic compounds. To further understand the catalyst’s ability to perform oxidation reactions, mechanisms of sulfides and alkenes were studied. Two model substrates were chosen for the investigation: CEES and cis-cyclooctene. The catalytic system effectively oxidizes CEES at room temperature in less than 15 minutes and cis-cyclooctene at 47 °C within 3 hours, using a peroxyacid generated in situ as the oxidant source. Kinetic experiments demonstrated that the mechanism of the sulfide reaction changed at higher temperatures, while the alkene reaction did not. In each reaction, a partial negative charge on the peroxyacid during the oxidation process was indicated. The confirmation of radical formation in the mechanism was experimentally shown by the appearance of an induction period when diphenylamine, a radical trap, was introduced into the reaction.

VO(dtpa)-APMS performs two catalytic oxidations: the oxidation of propionaldehyde to make the peroxyacid and the oxidation of alkenes or sulfides. In the first reaction, O2 binds to the vanadium complex to form a superoxo eta-1-bound O2 radical. This species leads to the formation of peroxyacid through a radical process. The peroxyacid produced in this manner can then react with a sulfide or an alkene in a process also catalyzed by the VO(dtpa) complex. The peroxyacid coordinates with the vanadium center. Upon coordination, the sulfide or alkene directly reacts with the oxygen of the peroxyacid while the peroxyacid is being deprotonated. A 6-coordinate catalyst intermediate is formed prior to the release of the oxidation product and propionic acid to regenerate the VO(dtpa) complex.



Number of Pages

190 p.

Included in

Chemistry Commons