Synthesis of carboxylic acids from oxygenated substrates, CO$_{2}$ and H$_{2}

  • Synthèse d'acides carboxyliques à partir de substrats oxygénés, de CO$_{2}$ et de H$_{2}

Solmi, Matilde Valeria; Leitner, Walter (Thesis advisor); Claver, Carmen (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2018, 2019)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2018. - Dissertation, Université de Lyon, 2018.


Aliphatic carboxylic acids are used in many industrial sectors and their importance from an economical point of view is increasing. They are currently produced in large quantities, through processes exploiting the mostly non-renewable CO as C1 synthon. Carbon dioxide is a potential environmentally friendly, renewable and abundant C1 building block. The aim of this work is to provide a catalytic protocol converting CO2 and oxygenated substrates to obtain useful chemicals, like carboxylic acids. To this end a homogeneous catalytic Rh system, used to produce aliphatic carboxylic acids starting from oxygenated substrates, CO2 and H2 was investigated and optimized. The system consists of a Rh precursor, iodide additive and PPh3 ligand working in a batch reactor under CO2 and H2 pressure. The reaction conditions were optimized for each class of investigated substrates: primary alcohols, secondary alcohols, ketones, aldehydes and epoxides. The reaction scope was investigated and 30 different molecules were converted into carboxylic acids, leading to yields of up to 80%. In addition, the system was studied using a Design of Experiment approach, obtaining additional information regarding the studied parameters. The reaction mechanism and the catalytically active species were studied, by different experiments like competitive reactions, NMR and labelling experiments. This investigation resulted in a deeper knowledge of the reaction pathway, composed ofsome non-catalytic transformations and two catalytic steps. The reaction proceeds through a reverse Water Gas Shift Reaction (rWGSR) transforming CO2 into CO and H2O, which are consumed in the following hydrocarboxylation of the in-situ formed alkene to give the final carboxylic acid product. The catalytic system is similar to traditional Rh carbonylation and Water Gas Shift catalysts. The PPh3 is needed to supply additional ligands allowing the catalyst to work in reaction conditions with a minimal amount of toxic CO ligand. In addition, a heterogeneous catalytic system was investigated for the same reaction. Single atom catalysts (SACs) are receiving much attention as catalytic solution, since they have both the advantages of homogeneous (selectivity, high activity) and heterogeneous (easy separation and recycling) catalysts. Single Rh atoms dispersed on N-doped graphene were synthesized and characterized, obtaining information regarding the chemical and physical structure of the material. Eventually, they were tested as catalysts for CO2 activation, carboxylic acid production, hydrogenation and hydrogenolysis reactions.


  • Department of Chemistry [150000]
  • Chair of Technical Chemistry and Petrochemistry [154110]