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Economical and safe chemical production

Scientists are producing chemicals safely and cheaply using abundant, non-toxic metals like iron or cobalt to speed up chemical reactions, instead of traditionally used precious metals.
Economical and safe chemical production
Catalysts are substances that are added to a chemical reaction to speed it up or to make it more efficient. For example, many important chemical products such as pharmaceuticals or plastics contain organic molecules with a carbon skeleton. Making these products requires carbon-carbon (C-C) bond formation, a difficult chemical reaction traditionally aided by expensive or toxic precious metal catalysts like gold and platinum.

The EU-funded SILACOFECC (New anionic ligands for base metal catalysis) project developed a way to improve non-toxic, cheap catalysts for C-C bond-forming reactions. The project team used silicon to turn the abundant metals (iron and cobalt) into efficient catalysts.

Silicon binds to a metal atom situated in the middle of a molecule, forming a new complex that alters the metal's chemical properties. Researchers made new silicon compounds known as ligands and tested whether they could fine-tune the catalytic properties of iron and cobalt.

They found that these silicon compounds moved hydrogen atoms around the molecule and transferred them to carbon atoms. By helping iron or cobalt catalysts to form new chemical bonds, such migration of atoms may represent a useful property of future ligands.

Developing cheap, non-toxic catalysts aided by silicon ligands is an important step towards environmentally friendly and cost-effective chemical production.

Related information


Chemical production, non-toxic metals, iron, cobalt, chemical reactions, catalysts, ligands, silicon
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