A catalyst is a key ingredient for many chemical reactions. It facilitates the transformation of a molecule into another molecule, without itself being modified, which means that it can be used several times. However, many catalysts are made from precious metals, which makes them expensive and potentially harmful to the environment. Today, researchers have designed a catalyst made of a much more abundant metal, iron, to facilitate an important chemical reaction: the olefin metathesis reaction. Their work was recently published in Natural catalysis.
“The olefin metathesis reaction is one of the most widely applicable catalytic reactions for the formation of carbon-carbon double bonds,” explained Satoshi Takebayashi, a researcher at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). who participated in the work. “Carbon-carbon double bonds are an important bond found in many chemicals.”
Olefins are a class of compounds with carbon-carbon double bonds. The olefin metathesis reaction produces new carbon-carbon double bonds by exchanging the carbon atoms in the olefins. The catalyst facilitates this exchange by breaking the original double bonds and causing new ones to form.
Currently, one of the most popular catalysts for this reaction is made from the precious metal, ruthenium. The purpose of this study was to facilitate the reaction using a catalyst made of a much more abundant metal, iron, thus making the whole process cheaper and more environmentally friendly. This is a goal long sought after by the scientific community, as ruthenium and iron belong to the same group in the periodic table and should therefore have similar properties.
For this study, the researchers designed a new iron complex and demonstrated that it could be used as a catalyst in the olefin metathesis reaction. They showed it worked by creating a polymer, a long-chain molecule made up of smaller chemical units.
Despite the success of this research, Takebayashi pointed out that state-of-the-art ruthenium-based catalysts are still much more applicable than newer iron-based catalysts. Iron-catalyst is unstable and less active when exposed to air and moisture. These limitations must be corrected before the iron catalyst can replace the ruthenium one.
“This study may be useful to other researchers in the field,” Takebayashi concluded. “I hope iron-based catalysts can be further developed using this knowledge.”
Chemists are developing a variety of synthetic processes important to industry
Satoshi Takebayashi, Iron-catalyzed ring-opening metathesis polymerization of olefins and mechanistic studies, Natural catalysis (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41929-022-00793-4. www.nature.com/articles/s41929-022-00793-4
Quote: Iron Catalyst Could Make Important Chemical Reactions Cheaper and More Environmentally Friendly (June 2, 2022) Retrieved September 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-iron-catalyst-important -chemical-reactions.html
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