Northwestern researchers have developed a novel method to produce important chemical intermediates called epoxides for the synthesis of pharmaceutical and natural products. Common oxygen sources for epoxide synthesis are peroxides hydroperoxides oxychlorides and oxometal complexes but these reagents are expensive and generate significant amounts of environmentally unfriendly by-products. This new technology from Northwestern offers a way in which epoxides can be selectively produced using molecular oxygen without utilizing environmentally hazardous reagents. Furthermore other required chemicals can be handled in an environmentally benign manner. For example CO is used as a sacrificial reductant and may be regenerated from the CO2 product by the reverse water-gas shift process and any methanol vapor in the exit stream may be recycled. Because this type of reaction is generally applicable to other alkyl peroxides and alcohols this method may be applied to other epoxidation reactions. Gas composition reaction pressure and solvent composition have been optimized to improve epoxide yield and its commercial application.
1) Environmentally friendly 2) Highly specific production 3) Inexpensive 4) Scalable for commercial use