The study and application of transition metal hydrides (TMHs) has been an active area of chemical research since the early 1960s1, for energy storage, through the reduction of protons to generate hydrogen2,3, and for organic synthesis, for the functionalization of unsaturated C–C, C–O and C–N bonds4,5. In the former instance, electrochemical means for driving such reactivity has been common place since the 1950s6 but the use of stoichiometric exogenous organic- and metal-based reductants to harness the power of TMHs in synthetic chemistry remains the norm. In particular, cobalt-based TMHs have found widespread use for the derivatization of olefins and alkynes in complex molecule construction, often by a net hydrogen atom transfer (HAT)7. Here we show how an electrocatalytic approach inspired by decades of energy storage research can be made use of in the context of modern organic synthesis. This strategy not only offers benefits in terms of sustainability and efficiency but also enables enhanced chemoselectivity and distinct, tunable reactivity. Ten different reaction manifolds across dozens of substrates are exemplified, along with detailed mechanistic insights into this scalable electrochemical entry into Co–H generation that takes place through a low-valent intermediate.
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