Chemical catalysis

In process chemistry, the catalysis of a certain reaction can be mediated either by a biological or chemical catalyst. Enzymes and whole cells make up the biological group, while the chemical group can be said to include all non-enzymatic catalysts. Some reactions can be catalysed by both groups of catalysts, while the catalyst used is not interchangeable in other. The choice of catalyst depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the reaction, the substrate to be transformed, and the type of solvent used.


Hydrogenation, or the reduction of organic compounds, is often carried out in the presence of a transition metal catalyst, such as palladium. The metal catalyses the reaction by adsorbing the organic compound and hydrogen onto its surface. This weakens pre-existing bonds, which enables new bonds to form between the two reactants. As the overall rate of this catalysis depends on the metal surface area available, the metal is generally used in powdered form. To facilitate the procedure and maximize the activity of the metal, it is often adsorbed onto a high-surface material, with the most common support being activated carbon. Common substrates for hydrogenation reactions are alkenes, alkynes, aldehydes, ketones and esters. The hydrogen source for the reaction is often simply hydrogen gas. In transfer hydrogenation, which is common for homogeneous catalysis of polar substrates and a range of other applications, hydrogen-donor solvents such as isopropanol or formic acid are commonly utilized.

Organic reactions, such as esterification, etherification, alkylation and aldol reactions, are commonly catalysed by an acid or a base. This encompasses applications such as sugar conversion, fine chemical synthesis and the production of petrochemicals. By acting as a proton donor or proton acceptor, acids and bases can catalyse rate-determining proton transfers, and thus increase the overall reaction rates. Due to concerns regarding both environmental aspects and general reaction safety, solid acid or base catalysts are often preferred to their more corrosive and waste producing liquid counterparts. The main heterogeneous acid catalysts are solid phosphoric acid, ion exchange resins and protonic zeolites, while some examples of base catalysts include alkaline zeolites and salts, as well as ion exchangers, clays and oxides.

Rotating bed reactors

With the SpinChem® rotating bed reactor (RBR), the solid phase is kept in the four compartments of a rotating stainless-steel cylinder. As the RBR spins, solution is pushed through the filters of the cylinder and through the packed bed within by centrifugal forces. Simultaneously, new solution enters the RBR through the hole in the centre to subsequently be pushed through the bed, thus repeating the process. This allows every liquid parcel to do multiple passages through the bed, which can enable a faster process, higher yields and reduced reagent consumption. By increasing the rotational speed of the RBR, the process can be sped up without risking degradation of the solid phase, which is kept well-protected from mechanical forces. The SpinChem® RBR is suitable for a wide variety of applications, with resins ranging from hard glass beads and ion exchangers to activated carbon and soft bio-polymer particles.

Application L1801
Advanced oxidation process for the removal of ibuprofen from aqueous solution: A non-catalytic and catalytic ozonation study in a semi-batch reactor

Degradation of the pharmaceutical compound ibuprofen by ozone, was optimized in batch type reactors with and without zeolite based heterogeneous catalysts. The rotating bed reactor technology increased the concentrations of dissolved gas compared to traditional stirred tank reactors and allowed convenient handling of the catalyst particles without any filtration.  Keywords: Fast reaction, Gas-distribution, Organic molecules, Scientific literature, Zeolite

Application L1604
Catalytic hydrogenation of d-xylose over Ru decorated carbon foam catalyst in a SpinChem® rotating bed reactor

Tung Ngoc Pham, Ajaikumar Samikannu, Anne-Riikka Rautio, Koppany L. Juhasz, Zoltan Konya, Johan Wärnå, Krisztian Kordas, Jyri-Pekka MikkolaTopics in Catalysis, 59 (2016) 1165-1177

Application 9005
Chemical Catalysis with MagRBR and EasyMax – Quick and Convenient Suzuki couplings

This application note demonstrates how the combination of a SpinChem MagRBR custom-filled with heterogenous Pd(II)-catalyst and the controlled conditions in a Mettler-Toledo EasyMax™ 102 Advanced Synthesis Workstation allows for quick and convenient generation of C-C coupled products.  Keywords: Chemical catalysis, Easy handling, Mettler-Toledo

Application L1601
Deconstruction of Nordic hardwood in switchable ionic liquids and acylation of the dissolved cellulose

Valerie Eta, Jyri-Pekka MikkolaCarbohydrate Polymers, 136 (2016) 459-465

Application 1003
Effective phase-transfer between immiscible liquids and an ion exchange resin

Illustrative video showing how a phenolic colourant is deprotonated and extracted from an organic to an aqueous solvent. Using SpinChem® RBR in a flower-baffled reaction vessel created fine emulsion droplets resulting in effective phase-transfer between the two liquids and the solid phase. Keywords: Immiscible liquids, Ion exchange, Organic molecules, Technology

Application L1802
Epoxidation of fatty acids and vegetable oils assisted by microwaves catalyzed by a cation exchange resin

Epoxidation reactions with in-situ formed percarboxylic acids were enhanced by heterogeneous catalysis and optimized with respect to product yield. The authors concluded that “SpinChem RBR, was beneficial, in terms of eliminating mass transfer limitations, it enabled a simpler collection and recycling of the catalyst and minimized mechanical wear of the solid catalyst”.  Keywords: Easy handling, Ion exchange, Organic molecules, Scientific literature, Synthesis

Application 1022
Transfer hydrogenation with catalyst recycling in a rotating bed reactor

Convenient transfer hydrogenation catalysed by palladium-containing beads was performed using a SpinChem® rotating bed reactor (RBR). The set-up resulted in high product conversions throughout more than 10 consecutive batches without any need for filtration to recycle the catalyst.  Keywords: Easy handling, Organic molecules, Palladium on carbon, Quick recycling, Synthesis

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