Issue Date: April 16, 2012
Grab-And-Go Palladium Catalyst
Chemists have developed a palladium-based nanoparticle catalyst with the unprecedented ability to pluck thiols and selenols from a chemical mixture and then use them in an organic synthesis (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja210596w). The method could lead to a more efficient process for selectively removing sulfur compounds from petroleum during oil refining, which is undertaken to avoid catalyst fouling and reduce pollution from burning gasoline and other fuels. The current hydrodesulfurization process converts sulfur compounds to hydrogen sulfide and then elemental sulfur. The sulfur can be used as a chemical reagent, but it typically piles up outside refineries as waste. Seeking a more sustainable option, a team led by Valentin P. Ananikov of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Djamaladdin G. Musaev of Emory University discovered that mixing Pd[OC(O)CH3]2 with thiols and selenols (RSH/RSeH) and acetylenic hydrocarbons generates a new type of catalyst. The catalyst self-assembles into nanoparticles made up of a network of palladium atoms interspersed with thiol and selenol molecules. It subsequently facilitates selective addition of thiols and selenols to the acetylenic compounds to form the targeted vinyl products (shown), which could be used to make polymers and various other organic compounds.
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