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A copper catalyst with promise for utilizing CO2 in organic synthesis

By Paul Grad |

Scientists from the A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) Institute for Chemical and Engineering Sciences (Singapore; www.a-star.edu.sg) have shown that a copper catalyst can incorporate CO2 into organic molecules under mild conditions, opening the way to an inexpensive, nontoxic source of carbon for the synthesis of products such as plastics and pharmaceuticals. Normally, a lot of energy is required to break up CO2’s strong chemical bonds. For example, the synthesis of salicylic acid requires subjecting CO2 to a pressure of 100 atm and heating the reaction mixture to a temperature of up to 125°C. The scientists used the commercially available catalyst, consisting of a copper atom attached to 1,3-bis-(2,6-diisopropylphenyl)imidazol-2-ylidene (empirical formula C74H84N4O4Pd2). Lead scientist Duong Anh Hung says the materials commonly used in reactions involving carbon dioxide are high-energy materials containing metals such as lithium or magnesium, which are highly reactive and may break down the molecule during the reaction. Alternatively, less reactive starting materials containing tin tend to be highly toxic. Thus, the scientists looked at more environmentally benign materials, such as organoborons, he says.…
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