SPECIALTY chemicals company Evonik and catalysis research institute Leibniz Institute for Catalysis (LIKAT), have successfully achieved the first direct carbonylation of 1,3-butadiene. The carbonylation breakthrough paves the way for more cost-effective and environmentally friendly synthesis of industrially important adipic acid derivatives.
Millions of tons of adipates are produced annually, and they serve as the starting materials in the manufacture of a range of products, including plasticisers, perfumes, lubricants, solvents, various pharmaceutical ingredients, and nylon. Currently, they can only be produced using complex, multi-stage energy- and cost-intensive synthesis, which requires many chemicals and produces climate-relevant nitrogen oxides.
A team co-led by Evonik and LIKAT has successfully double-carbonylated the organic compound 1,3-butadiene to produce adipates, salts of adipic acid. Carbonylation involves the introduction of carbonyl (CO) groups into organic compounds. It is one of the most important reaction types in the chemical industry.
The successful carbonylation was enabled by the development of a novel palladium catalyst, based on a specific phosphine ligand. When the ligand binds to palladium, it results in a highly selective, efficient, and long-lived catalyst. It can achieve 95% yields of adipic acid derivatives under industrially feasible conditions.
The catalyst was able to produce adipate diester from 1,3-butadiene, carbon monoxide, and butanol with 97% selectivity and 100% atom economy under industrially viable and scalable conditions. It could enable the production of other di- and tri-esters from 1,2- and 1,3-dienes.
Last month, Evonik said that large-scale evaluation of the economic and technological aspects of this development would begin immediately.
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