Ionic Liquids for Green Chemistry-Biphase Hydrogenation Catalysis

EPA Contract Number: 68D00232
Title: Ionic Liquids for Green Chemistry-Biphase Hydrogenation Catalysis
Investigators: McEwen, Alan B.
Small Business: Covalent Associates Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through March 1, 2001
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Transition metal homogeneous catalysts based on metal atom reactivity are highly efficient compared to heterogeneous catalysts. A shortcoming of homogeneous catalysis is the separation of catalysts from the products, which wastes a valuable resource and leads to contamination of the environment with heavy metals. Immobilizing homogeneous catalysts into an immiscible phase will heterogenize the highly reactive and selective catalysts, thereby facilitating product separation and reuse of the catalyst. Covalent Associates, Inc., will use ionic liquids to create biphase catalysts. Biphase olefin hydrogenation will be developed with ionic liquids that Covalent has invented.

Hydrogenation is a ubiquitous chemical transformation used in the petrochemical and specialty chemical industry. The hydrogenation of arenes is important for the generation of cleaner diesel fuels. The hydrogenation of isohexenes (a product of the Dimersol process) is important for the generation of cleaner diesel fuels. Development of biphase hydrogenation catalysts for these reactants will create a more efficient, less polluting process to improve the cleanliness of fuels for internal combustion engines.

Product separation has been a major obstacle in the implementation of homogeneous catalysts in industrial processes. Biphase catalysis using water has been successful; however, these systems have a water contamination problem. The water must be cleaned of organic impurities before being discharged into the environment, which is an exceedingly difficult process. In addition, organic substrates have poor solubility in water, limiting the reaction rate. Improved biphase catalytic systems are needed to overcome these limitations and provide an environmentally friendly process.

The Phase I objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of using ionic liquids as an immobilizing phase in biphase catalysis. In contrast to Covalent's ionic liquids, haloluminate and inorganic fluoride ionic liquids suffer from high reactivity and limited thermal stability. Specifically, Covalent wants to demonstrate the hydrogenation of alkenes and arenes. Another objective is to develop an environmentally benign process, or "green process," avoiding volatile solvent and solvent-contaminated water by-products.

The commercial applications for this technology include hydrogenation, gasoline reformation, cleaner diesel fuels, and the dimersol process.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, biphase catalysis, ionic liquids, hydrogenation, green chemistry, pollution prevention, engineering, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Incineration/Combustion, Engineering, Environmental Engineering, biphase hydrogenation catalysis, hydrogenation catalysis, ionic liquids, fossil fuel combustion, catalysis

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report