Catching a cation

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Science  02 May 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5313, pp. 653
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5313.653j

Superacids, such as HF-SbF5, are stronger than anhydrous sulfuric acid and can protonate extremely weak bases; their ability to protonate alkanes has found use in the petrochemical industry. One important reaction performed in superacidic media is the formation of aromatic aldehydes by the reaction of aromatic compounds with CO. The formation of the proposed formyl cation intermediate, HCO+, has been difficult to observe in solution, but by using high pressures of CO (26 atmospheres), de Rege et al. observed HCO+ in HF-SbF5 by infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies. [See the Perspective by Prakash.]

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