Pentanuclear catalyst for hydrocarbon processing

A team of scientists from the Research Institute of Chemistry (RIC) of RUDN University, Russia and colleagues from major scientific centers have created a new pentanuclear catalyst. This catalyst activates oxidation processes in low-reactive components of oil and gas. Using this catalyst for hydrocarbon processing will efficiently produce valuable organic substances such as acids and alcohols. This catalyst requires only minor heating and no increased pressure. The results of the team’s work were published in the Journal of Organometallic Chemistry.

The catalysts contain silicon (or germanium) and metal.
They are able to easily break the bonds between carbon and hydrogen atoms both in saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons. They then turn them into valuable products:
alcohols, acids, and ethers. Some works on the activation of carbon-hydrogen bonds were shortlisted for the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

In the course of their work, the researchers applied synthetic methods using the abilities of organic silicon and germanium derivatives to form unusual three-dimensional structures incorporating atoms of different metals. These framework compounds are soluble in organic solvents increasing the activity of a catalytical particle. The catalysts described in the work are classified as prismatic metallic silsesquioxanes. These compounds consist of a middle metal-containing layer located between two layers of silicon-containing cycle. Every atom of silicon is connected to an organic substitute.The catalyst is stable as the rare pentanuclear structure brings stability in the course of transition from solid matter to a solution. It was demonstrated via the example of
a copper-containing compound. After replacing pyridine with dimethyl formamide, the researchers determined (using XRD investigations) that both the source and the
target compounds had the same pentanuclear structure. This indicates quite high stability of the framework compound which is important in order to extend the period of a catalyst’s activity in a solution.

Catalytical experiments presented in this work show that a pentanuclear copper-containing compound is effective in homogeneous catalyst of the oxidation of secondary alcohol (to ketones) and alkanes (to alkylhydroperoxides) with the use of peroxides. The discovered methods of oil and gas processing by means of hydrocarbons activation with metal-containing compounds have an obvious advantage over the usual cracking and pyrolysis
technologies that required expensive temperature- and
pressure-resistant equipment.

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