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Solvent-determined mechanistic pathways in zeolite-H-BEA-catalysed phenol alkylation

Nature Catalysisvolume 1pages141147 (2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

Alkylation of phenolics is of great importance in synthetic chemistry and the valorization of lignocellulosic-biomass-derived streams. Here, we unravel how alkylating reactants and solvents significantly alter the reaction pathways of zeolite-catalysed alkylation of phenol in the liquid phase. The carbenium ion formed from the dehydration of cyclohexanol or from the adsorption and protonation of cyclohexene acts as the electrophile, inducing carbon–carbon bond formation. Cyclohexanol at Brønsted acid sites (BAS) forms hydrogen-bonded monomers and protonated dimers in apolar solvents. The dimer appears to generate a much lower concentration of carbenium ions compared with the monomer. Higher alkylation rates in apolar solvents than in water are caused by the energetically more-favourable carbenium ion formation from either alcohol or olefin on non-hydrated zeolite BAS than on hydronium ions produced by BAS in pores filled with water.

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Acknowledgements

Y.L. gratefully acknowledges support from the Graduate School (Faculty Graduate Center of Chemistry) of the Technische Universität München. The authors thank G. L. Haller (Yale University) for his critical reading of the manuscript. The authors also thank Z. Zhao (PNNL) for performing the NMR measurements. H.S., D.M.C., J.H. and J.A.L. acknowledge support from the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences & Biosciences. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is a multi-programme menational laboratory operated for DOE by Battelle.

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Affiliations

  1. Department of Chemistry and Catalysis Research Center, TU München, Garching, Germany

    • Yuanshuai Liu
    • , Eszter Baráth
    •  & Johannes A. Lercher
  2. Institute for Integrated Catalysis, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA

    • Hui Shi
    • , Jianzhi Hu
    • , Donald M. Camaioni
    •  & Johannes A. Lercher

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Contributions

Y.L. carried out the reactions and performed the characterizations for selected materials; J.H. provided data on the in situ 13C NMR measurements and discussed the NMR data; Y.L. and H.S. analysed the reaction data. The manuscript was written with contributions from all authors.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hui Shi or Johannes A. Lercher.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figs. 1–35, Supplementary Tables 1–7, Supplementary References.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-017-0015-z