Steric effects in the design of Co-Schiff base complexes for the catalytic oxidation of lignin models to para-benzoquinones
New Co-Schiff base complexes that incorporate a sterically hindered ligand and an intramolecular bulky piperazine base in close proximity to the Co center are synthesized. Their utility as catalysts for the oxidation of para-substituted lignin model phenols with molecular oxygen is examined. Syringyl and guaiacyl alcohol, as models of S and G units in lignin, are oxidized in good yield using a catalyst bearing an N-benzylpiperazinyl substituent, with the catalysts displaying improved reactivity for G oxidation. Computational evaluation of the catalysts shows that the piperazinyl substituent is within bonding distance of the Co center. The increased steric interference is suggested as the source of increased G reactivity.