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Highly selective and efficient solvent-free transformation of bio-derived levulinic acid to γ-valerolactone by Ru(II) arene catalyst precursors

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posted on 05.05.2020, 08:07 by Novisi K. Oklu, Banothile C. E. Makhubela
The selective and efficient solvent-free hydrogenation of bio-based levulinic acid (LA) to γ-valerolactone (GVL)
was achieved with new pyridylimine ruthenium(II) complexes as catalyst precursors. The hydrogenation reactions
were performed in the presence of formic acid as hydrogen source using a catalyst loading as low as 0.1 mol
% with potassium hydroxide or triethylamine (Et3N). 4-Hydroxyvaleric acid (HVA) was produced only when
KOH was used, whereas reactions involving Et3N were selective to GVL. At 150 °C,>96% LA conversions were
achieved with 100% GVL selectivity. Recyclability of catalyst precursors was demonstrated by running three
consecutive reactions where 100% conversion and selectivity was maintained. In-situ NMR studies show that
hydrogen gas is formed by the decomposition of formic acid to carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Ru-hydride species
have been detected, by 1H NMR, and are believed to be the catalytically active species, and a mechanism of the
reaction has been proposed.

Funding

National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF) (Grant Numbers: 99269 and 105556)

University of Johannesburg’ Centre for Synthesis and Catalysis

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