PerspectiveOrganic Chemistry

Construction and deconstruction of aldehydes by transfer hydroformylation

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Science  02 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6217, pp. 29-30
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2329

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For more than 75 years, the chemical industry has relied on the hydroformylation reaction (the “oxo” process) to convert alkenes, CO, and H2 into aldehydes (1) used in making plasticizers, alcohols, amines, and esters. Although “syngas,” the 1:1 mixture of CO and H2, is inexpensive and abundant, it is also toxic and highly flammable, so most commercial applications of hydroformylation are limited to commodity-scale processes in plants dedicated to handling superambient pressures of gases. More general use of the hydroformylation process would be facilitated by “gasless” group-transfer approaches to hydroformylation. On page 56 of this issue, Murphy et al. (2) report a rhodium catalyst that transfers the equivalent of H2 and CO between an aldehyde and an alkene under mild conditions and without evolving gases.