Molecules. 2023 Aug 17;28(16):6095. doi: 10.3390/molecules28166095.
The formose reaction is an autocatalytic series of aldol condensations that allows one to obtain monosaccharides from formaldehyde. The formose reaction suffers from a lack of selectivity, which hinders practical applications at the industrial level. Over the years, many attempts have been made to overcome this selectivity issue, with modest results. Heterogeneous porous catalysts with acid-base properties, such as Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs), can offer advantages compared to homogeneous strong bases (e.g., calcium hydroxide) for increasing the selectivity of this important reaction. For the very first time, four different Zeolite Imidazolate Frameworks are presented in this work as catalysts for the formose reaction in liquid phase, and their catalytic performances were compared with those of the typical homogeneous catalyst (i.e., calcium hydroxide). The heterogeneous nature of the catalysis, the possible contribution of leached metal or linkers to the solution, and the stability of the materials were investigated. The porous structure of these solids and their mild basicity make them suitable for obtaining enhanced selectivity at 30% formaldehyde conversion. Most of the MOFs tested showed low structural stability under reaction conditions, thereby indicating the need to search for new MOF families with higher robustness. However, this important result opens the path for future research on porous heterogeneous basic catalysts for the formose reaction.