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A more direct chemical route to ketones

By Scott Jenkins |

Using a simple, ligand-free palladium catalyst system, researchers at McGill University (Montreal, Que., Canada; www.mcgill.ca) have demonstrated that metal carbonylation — a core chemical reaction for many industrial products — can be used to synthesize ketones directly from hydrocarbons. The most common method for synthesizing ketones is the Friedel-Crafts reaction, which requires several energy-intensive preliminary steps to build up the required reactive acylating agents. The key to McGill’s new route is the formation of a highly potent electrophile species from carbon monoxide itself, which can promote the synthesis of ketone compounds from commonly available hydrocarbons, such as benzene. Although ketone synthesis via carbonylation has been previously demonstrated, these less-direct methods required stoichiometric amounts of synthetic building blocks and created more chemical waste, explains Bruce Arndtsen, McGill chemistry professor. This reaction is run at relatively mild conditions — pressures of 4 atm and temperatures around 100–130°C. Since metal-catalyzed carbonylation is already a well-established core chemical platform, this process should be well suited for scaleup, mentions Arndtsen. The team has used a homogenous…
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