Bringing photocatalysis from laboratory to industry

Bringing photocatalysis from laboratory to industry
Overview detailing the importance of in-line TBADT recovery. a Photocatalytic Hydrogen Atom Transfer enables both early- and late-stage functionalization of hydroalkanes and biologically active compounds. b Small-scale versus large-scale synthetic organic chemistry requires different approaches: catalyst lifetime and cost are only relevant on a process chemistry level. c TBADT is a high molecular weight molecule resulting in a large mass fraction and thus high associated cost when discarded. This warrants the need for catalyst recycling. d We disclose a general and efficient approach for decatungstate recycling using in-line nanofiltration. Credit: Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-33821-9

Photocatalysis is considered a promising novel approach for the sustainable synthesis of, amongst others, active pharmaceutical ingredients and agrochemicals.

In a paper in Nature Communications, researchers at the Flow Chemistry group of the University of Amsterdam's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences now present an approach that helps to bring photocatalysis from laboratory to industry. Led by Prof. Timothy Noël and in cooperation with the British company Vapourtec, a continuous- system is presented that combines a micro-flow photoreactor with a nanofiltration device for recycling.

Photocatalysis makes it possible to drive chemical conversions directly by sunlight, or by LED light powered by . As such, it presents an opportunity to render the more sustainable and less dependent on fossil resources. However, the cost of a photocatalyst can be quite high, which often hampers industrial interest in photocatalysis.

At the University of Amsterdam's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, the Noël Research Group develops flow chemistry systems that help materialize the promises of photocatalysis. In Nature Communications they now describe how they have combined the flow chemistry approach with the use of nanofiltration for in-process catalyst recycling. Since this renders the cost of the catalyst essentially irrelevant, this presents an important step in bringing photocatalysis to industrial application.

In earlier research, the group developed a flow reactor that employed a decatungstate photocatalyst (TBADT) for so-called hydrogen atom transfer (HAT) processes. Combining this with the nanofiltration system, they were able to achieve a catalyst recycling percentage of over 99% in various HAT reactions (such as photocatalytic C(sp3)–H alkylation and amination).

They report turnover numbers (TONs) of well over 8,000, which according to Prof Noël is a record number for photocatalysts at least in his lab; it might even be the highest TON for any synthetic photocatalysis experiment. He considers the newly developed process an important stepping stone toward sustainable "real life" (i.e. process-ready) photocatalysis.

More information: Zhenghui Wen et al, Membrane-based TBADT recovery as a strategy to increase the sustainability of continuous-flow photocatalytic HAT transformations, Nature Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-33821-9

Journal information: Nature Communications

Citation: Bringing photocatalysis from laboratory to industry (2022, October 18) retrieved 10 December 2023 from
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