ACS Omega. 2022 Aug 29;7(36):31789-31800. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.2c02423. eCollection 2022 Sep 13.
Limonene dioxide is recognized as a green monomer for the synthesis of a wide variety of polymers such as polycarbonates, epoxy resins, and nonisocyanate polyurethanes (NIPU). The developed green technologies for its synthesis over heterogeneous catalysts present a challenge in that the selectivity of limonene dioxide is rather low. Homogeneous epoxidation in the presence of dimethyldioxirane for limonene dioxide synthesis is a promising technology. This study reports the epoxidation of limonene by dimethyldioxirane (DMDO) using two approaches. The isolated synthesis of DMDO solution in acetone was followed by epoxidation of limonene in another reactor in 100% organic phase (stepwise epoxidation). Following this procedure, limonene dioxide could be produced with almost 100% conversion and yield. A second approach allowed using in situ generated in aqueous-phase DMDO to epoxidize the limonene forming a microemulsion with a solubilized surfactant in the absence of any organic solvent. The surfactants tested were hydrosulfate (CTAHS), bromide (CTAB), and chloride (CTAC) cetyltrimethylammonium. All these surfactants showed good stability of microemulsions at aqueous surfactant concentrations above their critical micellar concentrations (CMC). Stability is obtained at the lowest concentration when using CTAHS because of its very low CMC compared to CTAB and CTAC. The major advantages of epoxidation in microemulsions compared to DMDO stepwise epoxidation are the absence of an organic solvent (favoring a low reaction volume) and the very high oxygen yield of 60 to 70% versus 5% in a stepwise approach. The epoxides formed are easily separated from the aqueous medium and the surfactant by liquid-liquid extraction. Therefore, the developed in situ epoxidation process is a green technology conducted under mild conditions and convenient for large-scale applications.