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Carbon Dioxide To Methanol Via Silanes

A research team reports the first use of N-heterocyclic carbenes to catalyze hydrosilylation reactions

by Stephen K. Ritter
April 20, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 16

Chemists and chemical engineers are on the lookout for new ways to utilize the abundant CO2 generated from burning fossil fuels as a feedstock to make commodity chemicals and fuels. Siti Nurhanna Riduan, Yugen Zhang, and Jackie Y. Ying of Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology report progress toward this goal by converting CO2 to methanol via N-heterocyclic carbene catalysts (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., DOI: 10.1002/anie.200806058). The researchers combined CO2 with different imidazolium-based carbenes and then added diphenylsilane as a hydrogen source; subsequently hydrolyzing each reaction mixture with water formed methanol, with better than 90% yield under optimized conditions. Hydrosilylation of CO2 is not new, the researchers point out; others have used transition-metal catalysts to carry out the reaction in the past. But the Singapore team describes their reaction as the first to use N-heterocyclic carbene catalysts for hydrosilylation, and they say the carbenes are more efficient at hydrosilylation of CO2 than previously reported transition-metal catalysts. The method offers a potentially economical, metal-free approach to CO2 utilization, the researchers conclude, especially if the expensive silane is replaced with an alternative hydrogen source.


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