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Iron catalyst shows promise for improving economics of metathesis reactions

By Gerald Ondrey |

The olefin metathesis reaction produces new carbon-carbon double bonds by swapping the carbon atoms in olefins, and is important for producing a number of chemicals. Currently, the most popular catalysts for this reaction are made from the precious metal ruthenium or molybdenum. Now, researchers from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST; Japan; www.oist.jp) have designed an iron-based catalyst as an economical alternative to conventional Ru-based catalysts. Described in a June issue of Nature Catalysis, the new catalyst is a three-coordinate iron(II) catalyst (diagram, right), which was demonstrated to perform ring-opening metathesis polymerization of olefins. For example, OIST’s catalyst was shown to enable the formation of polynorbornene (diagram) with stereoregularity and high molecular weight (greater than 107 g/mol). The polymerization of norbornene in the presence of styrene revealed cross-metathesis reactivity with the iron catalysts. A mechanism was also developed to describe the reaction. Despite the success of this research, OIST researcher Satoshi Takebayashi, and lead author of the study, cautions that more work is required, and that today’s state-of-the-art Ru-based catalysts are…
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