An air- and moisture-stable iridium(III) catalyst effectively promotes the hydrosilylation of carbon dioxide. This reaction leads to silyl formate in a highly selective manner and proceeds efficiently under mild conditions, most likely by an outer-sphere mechanism, as suggested by theoretical calculations.
[Credit: Angewandte Chemie International Edition]
The hydrogenation of CO2 to formic acid (HCO2H) is an area of CO2 extraction that is being intensively researched. In the chemical industry, formic acid is used as a starting material for many products, with applications including agriculture, food technology, and the leather goods industry. Most interestingly, it could be used as a hydrogen-storage medium for fuel-cell-driven vehicles.
Although a number of catalytic processes for the production of formic acid from CO2 have been developed, none of them have been implemented industrially. The reaction is an equilibrium that significantly favors the reactants. In order to hinder the constantly running reverse reaction, the formic acid must be trapped - in the form of salts, adducts, or derivatives - in order to remove it from the equilibrium.
A team led by Francisco J. Fernández-Alvarez and Luis A. Oro at the University of Zaragoza has now developed a new catalyst that allows carbon dioxide to be converted and trapped as a silyl formate. These compounds can be used for the production of silicone polymers and as reactive intermediates in organic syntheses. It is also easily possible to release formic acid from the silyl formate.
The new reaction, which the researchers have been able to carry out on a gram scale, occurs under very mild reaction conditions. It is highly selective and delivers a high turnover, works without a solvent and produces no waste products. The carbon dioxide is reduced by heptamethyltrisiloxane. At the heart of the reaction lies a specially developed iridium catalyst that is formed in situ from an air- and water-stable precursor.
About the Author
Dr Luis A. Oro is Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Zaragoza University, Spain. His main research interests are in organometallic chemistry and homogeneous catalysis with a special interest in reaction mechanisms. He is also the Director of the Homogeneous Catalysis Institute.