Research

Selective cleavage of C–C bonds is pursued as a useful chemical transformation method in biomass utilization. Herein, we report a hybrid CuOx/ceria/anatase nanotube catalyst in the selective oxidation of C–C bonds under visible light irradiation. Using the lignin β-1 model as a substrate offers 96% yields of benzaldehydes. Characterization results by high angle annular dark field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM) and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy element (EDX) mapping reveal that CuOx clusters are highly dispersed on the exposed anatase surface as well as on the nanosized ceria domains. In-depth investigations by Raman and ultraviolet visible diffuse reflectance spectra (UV−vis DRS), together with density functional theory (DFT) calculations, further verify that the CuOx clusters present on the ceria domains increase the concentration of surface defects (Ce3+ ions and oxygen vacancies) and accordingly improve the photocatalytic activity (Yang character); the CuOx clusters decorating on anatase suppress the side reaction (oxy-dehydrogenation without C–C bond cleavage) because of an upward shift in the valence band (VB) edge of anatase (Yin character). Mechanism investigation indicates hydrogen abstraction from β-carbon by photogenerated holes is a vital step in the conversion.
This work demonstrates the synthesis of an efficient photocatalyst, Au25(PPh3)10Cl2(SC3H6SiO3)5/TiO2, for selective oxidation of amines to imines. The photocatalyst is prepared via hydrolysis of Au25(PPh3)10Cl2[(SC3H6Si(OC2H5)3]5 nanoclusters in the presence of TiO2 support. The gold nanoclusters exhibit good photocatalytic activity using visible light and under mild thermal conditions for the selective oxidation with molecular oxygen (O2). The turnover frequency (TOF) of 4-methylbenzylamine oxidation is found to be 1522 h–1, which is considerably higher than that conventional gold catalysts. The gold nanoclusters present good recyclability and stability for the oxidation of a wide range of amines. The superior activity of the photocatalyst is associated with its unique electronic structure and framework. The catalytically active sites are deemed to be the exposed gold atoms upon detaching protecting ligands: i.e., PPh3. The Hammett parameter suggests that the photocatalytic process involves the formation of carbocation intermediate species. Further, Au–H species were confirmed by TEMPO (2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidinyloxy) as a trapping agent.
For lignin valorization, simultaneously achieving the efficient cleavage of ether bonds and restraining the condensation of the formed fragments represents a challenge thus far. Herein, we report a two-step oxidation–hydrogenation strategy to achieve this goal. In the oxidation step, the O2/NaNO2/DDQ/NHPI system selectively oxidizes CαH–OH to Cα═O within the β-O-4 structure. In the subsequent hydrogenation step, the α-O-4 and the preoxidized β-O-4 structures are further hydrogenated over a NiMo sulfide catalyst, leading to the cleavage of Cβ–OPh and Cα–OPh bonds. Besides the transformation of lignin model compounds, the yield of phenolic monomers from birch wood is up to 32% by using this two-step strategy. The preoxidation of CαH–OH to Cα═O not only weakens the Cβ–OPh ether bond but also avoids the condensation reactions caused by the presence of Cα+ from dehydroxylation of CαH–OH. Furthermore, the NiMo sulfide prefers to catalyze the hydrogenative cleavage of the Cβ–OPh bond connecting with a Cα═O rather than catalyze the hydrogenation of Cα═O back to the original CαH–OH, which further ensures and utilizes the advantages of preoxidation.
Selective oxidative cleavage of C-C bond is pivotal for producing functionalized molecules, useful for organic synthesis and biomass utilization. We herein report the oxidative C(OH)-C bond cleavage of secondary alcohols to acids over a copper/1, 10-phenanthroline complex with molecular oxygen as the oxidant. A wide range of secondary alcohols are converted into acids with up to 98% yields. More interestingly, it is effective for breaking up lignin model systems into acids, which is rarely achieved in previous studies. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations indicate a copper-oxo-bridged oxygen dimer is the active species for the C-H bond cleavage which is the rate-determining step for C-C bond.
Catalytic oxidation of C-C bond is a key technology to transform petroleum-based as well as sustainable biomass feedstock into more valuable oxygenates. We herein describe a convenient and useful oxidation strategy of converting ketones into carboxylic acids using homogeneous copper catalyst without additives and with O2 as the terminal oxidant. A wide range of aryl and aliphatic ketones as well as β–O–4 lignin models were selectively oxidized to acids via C-C bond cleavage. Mechanism studies by EPR and in situ NMR elucidate the principles of Cu/O2 reactivity that involves C-H bond and O2 activation via a peroxide species. This provides an important foundation for expanding the scope of useful aerobic oxidation reactions using copper catalysts.
Depolymerisation of lignin to aromatics is a challenging task. We herein report that a Cu(OAc)2/BF3·OEt2 catalyst is effective in simultaneously cleaving C–C bonds in β-1 and β-O-4 ketones, yielding esters and phenols. In-depth studies show that C–H bond activation is the rate determining step for C–C bond cleavage. BF3·OEt2 promotes the reaction via activating the β-C–H bond. This study offers the potential to obtain aromatic esters from lignin.
Conversion of low-carbon olefins to higher alcohols or olefins via the formation of C–C bonds is an increasingly important topic. We herein report an example of converting isobutene and formaldehyde (38 wt % aqueous solution) to 3-methyl-1,3-butanediol (MBD), a precursor for isoprene. The reaction occurs through a Prins condensation–hydrolysis reaction over a praseodymium (Pr)-doped CeO2 catalyst. The best MBD yield (70%) is achieved over the Pr-doped CeO2 catalyst. Catalyst characterizations with high-angle annular dark field transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-TEM), pyridine adsorption infrared (IR) and Raman spectroscopy, and density functional theory (DFT) calculations show that the doped Pr is uniformly and highly dispersed in the CeO2 crystalline phase. In addition, the Pr doping creates more oxygen vacancy sites on CeO2 and thus enhances the Lewis acidity of the catalyst, which is responsible for the catalytic performance of the Pr-CeO2 catalyst.
We herein report a new strategy of directly converting amines and CO to formamides with 100% atom utilization efficiency. It is suitable for up to 25 amine substrates with no additives. Ru/ceria is found to be an excellent catalyst for this reaction due the efficient co-activation of CO and amine on Ru species.
One of the challenges of depolymerizing lignin to valuable aromatics lies in the selective cleavage of the abundant C–O bonds of β-O-4 linkages. Herein we report a photocatalytic oxidation–hydrogenolysis tandem method for cleaving C–O bonds of β-O-4 alcohols. The Pd/ZnIn2S4 catalyst is used in the aerobic oxidation of α-C–OH of β-O-4 alcohols to α-C═O with 455 nm light, and then a TiO2–NaOAc system is employed for cleaving C–O bonds neighboring the α-C═O bonds through a hydrogenolysis reaction by switching to 365 nm light. Interestingly, the oxidation–hydrogenolysis tandem reaction can be conducted in one pot to offer ketones and phenols (up to 90% selectivity) via a dual light wavelength switching (DLWS) strategy. EPR and metal loading experiments elucidate that Ti3+ in TiO2 is formed in situ and is responsible for the photocatalytic hydrogenolysis through electron transfer from Ti3+ to the β-O-4 ketones.
Efficient cleavage of lignin β-O-4 ether bonds to produce aromatics is a challenging and attractive topic. Recently a growing number of studies reveal the initial oxidation of CαHOH to Cα=O can decrease the β-O-4 bond dissociation energy (BDE) from 274.0 kJ•mol-1 to 227.8 kJ•mol-1, and thus the β-O-4 bond is more readily cleaved in the subsequent transfer hydrogenation, or acidolysis. Here we show that the first reaction step, except in the above-mentioned pre-oxidation methods, can be a Cα-OH bond dehydroxylation to form a radical intermediate on the acid-redox site of a NiMo sulfide catalyst. The formation of a Cα radical greatly decreases the Cβ-OPh BDE from 274.0 kJ•mol-1 to 66.9 kJ•mol-1 thereby facilitating its cleavage to styrene, phenols and ethers with H2 and alcohol solvent. This is supported by control experiments using several reaction intermediates as reactants, analysis of product generation and by radical trap with TEMPO (2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-1-piperidinyloxy) as well as by density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The dehydroxylation-hydrogenation reaction is conducted under non-oxidative condition, which is beneficial for stabilizing phenols products.
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