ORGANIC CHEMISTRY: A rhodium catalyst for single-step styrene production from benzene and ethylene

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Abstract

Rising global demand for fossil resources has prompted a renewed interest in catalyst technologies that increase the efficiency of conversion of hydrocarbons from petroleum and natural gas to higher-value materials. Styrene is currently produced from benzene and ethylene through the intermediacy of ethylbenzene, which must be dehydrogenated in a separate step.The direct oxidative conversion of benzene and ethylene to styrene could provide a more efficient route, but achieving high selectivity and yield for this reaction has been challenging. Here, we report that the Rh catalyst (FIDAB)Rh(TFA)(ν2-C2H4) [FIDAB isN,N'bis(pentafluorophenyl)-2,3-dimethyl-1,4-diaza-1,3-butadiene; TFA is trifluoroacetate] converts benzene, ethylene, and Cu(ll) acetate to styrene, Cu(I) acetate, and acetic acid with 100% selectivity and yields ≥95%. Turnover numbers >800 have been demonstrated, with catalyst stability up to 96 hours.

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