Direct synthesis of p-methyl benzaldehyde from acetaldehyde via an organic amine-catalyzed dehydrogenation mechanism

iScience. 2021 Aug 23;24(9):103028. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.103028. eCollection 2021 Sep 24.


p-Methyl benzaldehyde (p-MBA) is a class of key chemical intermediates of pharmaceuticals. Conventional industrial processes for p-MBA production involve the consecutive photochlorination, amination, and acid hydrolysis of petroleum-derived p-xylene, while producing vast pollutants and waste water. Herein, we report a direct, green route for selective synthesis of p-MBA from acetaldehyde using a diphenyl prolinol trimethylsilyl ether catalyst. The optimized p-MBA selectivity is up to 90% at an acetaldehyde conversion as high as 99.8%. Intermediate structure and 18O-isotope data revealed that the conversion of acetaldehyde to p-methylcyclohexadienal intermediates proceeds in an enamine-iminium intermediate mechanism. Then, controlled experiments and D-isotope results indicated that the dehydrogenation of p-methylcyclohexadienal to p-MBA and H2 is catalyzed by the same amines through an iminium intermediate. This is an example that metal-free amines catalyze the dehydrogenation (releasing H2), rather than using metals or stoichiometric oxidants.

PMID:34522868 | PMC:PMC8426279 | DOI:10.1016/j.isci.2021.103028


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