What is it about?

A paradigm shift from low to high valent transition metal complex in hydrogenation: Carboxylic acids are one of the most common chemical groups in biomass, and their chemical reactions are particularly difficult to control in these mixtures. Currently used "catalytic hydrogenation" with metal catalysts can transform the acids into more useful alcohol groups, but also adds to the complexity of the biomass because of other side reactions and catalyst decomposition. Traditionally, low-valent transition metal complexes are used for hydrogenation of carboxylic acids. But we found better selectivity under milder conditions using a high-valent metal (Rhenium) complex, which also attacked carbon-hydrogen bonds next to the carboxylic acid.

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Why is it important?

A paradigm shift from low to high valent transition metal complex in hydrogenation


Hydrogenation is essentially a reduction, during which the metal catalyzes transfer of electrons to the carboxylic acid. Low-valence metals are electron rich, which makes them the obvious choice for hydrogenation of carboxylic acids. However, we showed that high valence metals could also react with the carboxylic acids by a different pathway, which offered much better control over the reactivity. The idea that high-valent transition metals are effective for this kind of reaction might go against traditional wisdom, but we have shown the potential of this approach for making high-value chemical products from biomass and relevant renewable resources.

Professor Susumu SAITO
Nagoya Univ

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This page is a summary of: Catalytic transformation of functionalized carboxylic acids using multifunctional rhenium complexes, Scientific Reports, June 2017, Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03436-y.
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