Electrochemically Switchable Catalysts in Flow

Bao N. Nguyen, Charlotte E. Willans, Nik Kapur, (Institute of Process Research & Development, University of Leeds); Christopher Jones, (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London)

Many important catalytic reactions happen through cycles of changes to the oxidation state of the metal catalyst to drive chemical conversion of starting materials to valuable products. Depending on the oxidation states it cycles through, a metal catalyst can catalyse different types of reactions. Controlling the oxidation state of metal catalyst is therefore pivotal in controlling the outcomes of catalytic reactions. This project explores a novel method to gain such control through application of a judicious electrical potential across the reaction mixture. This was achieved with an innovative electrochemical flow-cell which maximises contact between the catalytic solution and the electrodes. This factor is often limited in traditional electrochemical reactors. Very high level of selective manipulation of the catalyst oxidation state was achieved (>95% conversion) while organic materials (starting materials or product) remains intact, demonstrating the potential of this novel approach to catalysis.