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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Experimental and Computational Studies of Carbon-Carbon Bond Formation via Ketonization and Aldol Condensation over Site-Isolated Zirconium Catalysts

  • Author(s): Shylesh, S;
  • Bettinson, LA;
  • Aljahri, A;
  • Head-Gordon, M;
  • Bell, AT
  • et al.

We report here the preparation and investigation of isolated Zr centers supported on a high surface area silica for the conversion of carboxylic acids to internal ketones by ketonic decarboxylation (ketonization) and the aldol condensation of ketones to dimeric enones. Catalysts were synthesized by the grafting of Cp2ZrCl2 on the surface of amorphous silica. The connectivity of Zr was characterized by XRD, UV-vis, and Raman spectroscopy. For the lowest Zr loading, Zr is present predominantly as isolated monomeric species. As the Zr loading is increased, a progressively larger fraction of Zr forms oligomeric species and ZrO2 nanoparticles. Measurements of catalytic activity show that the turnover frequency for carboxylic acid ketonic decarboxylation reaction and aldol condensation of ketones decreases monotonically with increasing Zr loading. An H/D kinetic isotope effect was not observed over isolated Zr catalysts, suggesting that α-H abstraction is not the rate-determining step, rather C-C bond forming may be rate limiting for both reactions. This conclusion is supported by computational modeling of the reaction mechanism. The proposed catalytic cycle for ketonization proceeds via a β-keto acid intermediate on isolated Zr sites that are always coordinatively saturated with C-C bond formation as the rate-limiting step. C-C bond formation is also rate-determining for aldol condensation, with an apparent activation energy that is in good agreement with the experiment if the resting state is a saturated ZrOH site with two adsorbed ketone molecules.

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