Scientists optimized chemical processes to ensure they are environmentally friendly and sustainable. It is becoming increasingly important. Catalysts play a key role as they can make reactions more efficient. Osaka University researchers have reported a zirconium oxide-supported platinum-molybdenum catalyst. It can promote the selective conversion of esters into valuable unsymmetrical ethers. The study has been published in JACS Au.
Catalysts were always at the heart of making chemical reactions faster. It will improve their yields. It makes them less wasteful and more energy efficient. It leads to processes that are more cost effective and better for the environment.
Ethers are organic molecules. It has a range of uses in products such as fragrances, fuels and pharmaceuticals. It contains an oxygen atom. This atom can be thought of as a bridge between two parts. If the parts are the same, they are considered symmetrical. If they are different, they are unsymmetrical. Recent routes to unsymmetrical ethers have many limitations. Some needs specific starting materials. Some produces large amounts of waste. Some needs conditions like high pressure which is expensive and polluting to produce.
Scientists used hydrogen to convert esters into ethers through direct hydrodeoxygenation. It can be thought of a hydrogen molecule grabbing an oxygen atom out of the ester. It leaves the ether and a water molecule. This is efficient and clean. So, developing catalysts to promote this reaction under mild conditions has many advantages. The catalyst was separated from the reaction mixtures. It could be reused without losing activity. It was working when the hydrogen was at atmospheric pressure. Scientists showed that it was possible to convert a specific triglyceride derived from biomass into the corresponding triether. Biomass is a renewable resource. The processes appropriate for biomass-derived materials provide sustainable solutions.