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Streamlined carbon dioxide conversion in ionic liquids – a platform strategy for modern carbonylation chemistry

Project description

Unlocking the potential of benign and sustainable CO2 as feedstock for organic synthesis

Carbonylation chemistry, the introduction of a carbonyl group characterised by a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom, is an important area of organic synthesis. Carbon monoxide (CO) is currently the most common carbonyl source. However, although its conversion is relatively straightforward using transition metal catalysts, CO is a toxic gas. Use of benign, abundant and renewable CO2 could be a win-win proposition for the chemical industry and the planet, but CO2 is very stable and requires potent catalysts and harsh environments for its activation. The EU-funded CARBOFLOW project is developing a novel catalytic process to produce carbonyl compounds from CO2 under mild conditions. It will enable the safer and more sustainable production of bulk and fine chemicals of value for the chemical industry.


Since the discovery in the nineteenth century, carbonylation chemistry has found broad applicability in chemical industries and become now a key technology for bulk and fine chemical synthesis. Despite its substantial toxicity, carbon monoxide (CO) is commonly used as carbonyl source causing considerable safety issues, particularly when used on bulk scale. The replacement of this hazardous gas with more benign surrogates would be highly desirable, and recent ideas focus on the valorisation of carbon dioxide as abundant, non-toxic and renewable carbon resource. However, few industrial processes utilise carbon dioxide as a raw material, and potent catalysts are required to overcome its thermodynamic and kinetic barrier. In this regard, ionic liquids show considerable potential as cooperative media as they can solubilise large concentrations of carbon dioxide but also strongly interact and activate carbon dioxide.
This project focuses on the photocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide in ionic liquids and its successive conversion into carbonyl compounds. Several goals need to be realised, including fundamental studies and optimisation of the ionic liquid co-catalysed photocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide to produce CO under mild conditions (Goal 1). The reactivity of formed CO in supercritical carbon dioxide with various organic substrates needs to be explored (Goal 2) before finally developing a streamlined and continuous process for the direct formation of carbonyl compounds from carbon dioxide (Goal 3).
I envision that the photocatalytic activation of carbon dioxide in combination with the positive features of tailored ionic liquids as co-catalysts may overcome problems currently associated with carbon dioxide utilisation, eventually replacing the long-standing bastion of CO-based carbonylation chemistry with novel solutions.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 963 515,00
1040 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 963 515,00

Beneficiaries (1)