Customizing catalysts for solid-state reactions

Two ball mill chambers mixing chemicals during a solid-state, mechanochemical reaction. Credit: WPI-ICReDD Chemists at Hokkaido University and the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (WPI-ICReDD) have developed the first high-performance catalyst specifically designed and optimized for solid-state, mechanochemical synthesis. The team found that by attaching long polymer molecules to a metal catalyst, they…

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Two ball mill chambers mixing chemicals during a solid-state, mechanochemical reaction. Credit: WPI-ICReDD

Chemists at Hokkaido University and the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (WPI-ICReDD) have developed the first high-performance catalyst specifically designed and optimized for solid-state, mechanochemical synthesis.

The team found that by attaching long polymer molecules to a metal , they could trap the catalyst in a fluid-phase, which enabled efficient reactivity at near room temperature. This approach, reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, could bring cost and if adapted for wide application in chemical research and industry.

Chemical synthetic reactions are usually performed in solution, where dissolved molecules can intermingle and react freely. In recent years, however, have developed a process called mechanochemical synthesis, in which solid state crystals and powders are ground together. This approach is advantageous because it reduces the use of hazardous solvents and can allow reactions to proceed faster and at , saving . It can also be used for reactions between compounds that are difficult to dissolve in available solvents.

However, solid-state reactions occur in a very different environment than solution-based reactions. Previous studies found that palladium complex catalysts originally designed for use in solution often did not work sufficiently in solid-state mechanochemical reactions, and that high reaction temperatures were required. Using the unmodified palladium catalyst for solid-state reactions resulted in limited efficiency due to the tendency of palladium to aggregate into an inactive state. The team chose to embark in a new direction, designing a catalyst to overcome this mechanochemical problem of aggregation.

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