Project Details

n-Butanol has several advantages over ethanol as a fuel, but the bulk synthesis of n-butanol from sustainable sources is challenging mainly due to poor selectivity issues. We have been developing tandem catalytic routes for the conversion of ethanol to n-butanol via the Guerbet reaction. In the Guerbet reaction, dehydrogenation of ethanol first produces acetaldehyde.  Next, base is used to effect an Aldol condensation, and then the dihydrogen produced in the first step is used to hydrogenate the aldol product to produce butanol. We have shown that a combination of iridium and "bulky" nickel/copper catalysts can carry out this reaction with very high selectivity and conversion of ethanol, and are working to improve the process by examining the reactivity of other non-precious metal materials as catalysts.

Senior Investigators 

The Geurbet Reaction

Recent Publications and Patents

  • Chakraborty, S.; Piszel, P.; Brennessel, W. W.; Jones, W. D. "A Single Nickel Catalyst for the Acceptorless Dehydrogenation of Alcohols and Hydrogenation of Carbonyl Compounds",Organometallics201534, 5203-5206.
  • Chakraborty, S.; Piszel, P. E.; Hayes, C. E.; Baker, R. T.; Jones, W. D. "Highly Selective Formation of n-Butanol from Ethanol through the Guerbet Process: A Tandem Catalytic Approach", J. Am. Chem. Soc.2015137, 14264-14267.  
  • Xu, R.; Chakraborty, S.; Yuan, H.; Jones, W. D. "Acceptorless, Reversible Dehydrogenation and Hydrogenation of N-heterocycles with a Cobalt Pincer Catalyst", ACS Catalysis20155, 6350-6354.
  • University of Rochester provisional patent #62/193294, filed July 16, 2015.