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

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Science  24 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6233, pp. 421-424
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2260

A more direct way to synthesize styrene

Foam cups, foam pellets, plastic cutlery: All are made of polystyrene, which in turn is made of styrene. The massive manufacturing scale of this commodity chemical places a premium on the efficiency of its synthesis. The current industrial route requires three steps to make styrene from benzene and ethylene. Vaughan et al. present a rhodium catalyst that achieves the coupling in a single step by using a recyclable copper salt as an oxidant. Although the catalyst is slow for industrial application, it demonstrates the viability of a more direct process.

Science, this issue p. 421