PerspectiveChemistry

Love at second sight for CO2 and H2 in organic synthesis

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 629-630
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7997

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Summary

Many romantic comedies are based on a couple with opposite personalities who fall in love, lose track of each other, and reunite against all odds, most often with the help of a mediator. This cinematic scenario recaps the recent progress in bringing together two molecular actors, carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2), with the help of homogeneous catalysts in solution. Of the pair, CO2 is the reluctant partner; it is thermodynamically very stable and kinetically inert in typical organic syntheses. However, an energetic partner such as H2 can bring out its reactivity if their combination is properly directed. Organometallic catalysts have recently opened new possibilities to merge this odd couple of CO2 and H2 and, with the support of helpful in-laws (co-reactants), to establish synthetic methods for sustainable chemical processes across the chemical value chain.