Improved catalytic processes for the synthesis of phenol | 3/15/2019 | Staff
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Researchers at the University of Electro-communications, Tokyo report a single-site catalytic platform with high selectivity for the single-step synthesis of phenol in a paper appeared in ACS catalysis.

The cumene process is an energy-intensive industrial three-step process (one of the steps is explosive) used to produce phenol (C6H5OH), a chemical used as precursor for many industrially important materials, including polymers, drugs and herbicides. It would be highly desirable to find an efficient and less environmentally harmful way to produce phenol, and the best option would be to synthesize it directly starting from benzene, O2 and N2O in a single-step catalytic process. Ideally, this would be a gas-phase flow reaction on a solid catalyst, which would make the reaction efficient and result in reduced resource consumption and easy-to-separate products.

Yasuhiro - Iwasawa - Colleagues - University - Electro-communications

Yasuhiro Iwasawa and colleagues from the University of Electro-communications, Tokyo, reported the selective oxidation of benzene to phenol using large alkali metals as active sites incorporated in zeolite pores. There results defy conventional wisdom on catalytic processes, whereby alkali and alkaline metal ions cannot activate benzene, O2 and N2O when they absorb separately. The reactions, which were characterized using a combination of synchrotron techniques, display very high conversion and selectivity, in particular for Rb and Cs ions adsorbed on a type of zeolite called β-zeolite.

Two reaction paths were studied: in the first, benzene reacts with N2O, in the second, with O2 in the presence of NH3. Density functional theory calculations were used to understand the mechanism underlying both catalytic reactions. In the first case, the reaction...
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