New catalyst achieves unprecedented activities

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In Germany, Ruhr-Universität Bochum researchers developed a new efficient catalyst for the synthesis of so-called aromatic amines, which are central building blocks in many drugs and crop protection products. The system uses less energy than conventional catalysts and is more selective, which means fewer wastes in the reaction. An industrial partner has already become aware of the new system and is working to make it marketable and to use it on an industrial scale.

Aromatic amines are cyclic nitrogenous compounds. For their preparation bonds between carbon and nitrogen atoms must be made. Starting materials are certain nitrogen compounds, the primary or secondary amines, and ring-shaped compounds, which initially contain no nitrogen and are referred to as haloaromatics. The reaction is possible only with the help of a palladium catalyst. By attaching organic groups – so-called ligands – to the metal catalyst, the Bochum-based chemists succeeded in significantly increasing the efficiency of the reaction.

The newly designed system in Bochum immediately proved more active than the systems used in industry. With it, chlorine-containing aromatics can be coupled with many different amines at room temperature within one hour. With the previous catalysts this often several hours and temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius and more are required.