Understanding heterogeneous copper catalysts for coupling reactions in organic synthesis
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Copper is an inexpensive, earth-abundant, non-toxic metal that is found to have widespread applications in catalysis. Ullmann and Ullmann-type reactions and Glaser-Hay oxidative coupling of terminal alkynes are some of the well-established copper catalyzed coupling reactions used for the construction of important organic molecules, including pharmaceuticals, commodity chemicals and polymers. Those reactions have been mainly performed homogeneously, where the removal of residual copper from the reaction mixture is a challenge. Therefore, many researchers tried supporting copper precatalysts in order to help recover, and thus reduce final product contamination. Some studies showed that copper leached significantly from the support, with others showing that leached copper has a role in the catalysis. Nevertheless, many studies reported that the used supported catalysts were recyclable and claimed catalyst's heterogeneity. In most cases, the nature of the truly active copper species is still not clear. The objectives of this thesis were (1) to assess the heterogeneity/homogeneity of active copper species in popular catalytic C-N coupling reactions with already studied catalysts, mainly a copper exchanged zeolite and copper oxide nanoparticles, and (2) to use the collected information in designing a truly heterogeneous (stable and recyclable) catalyst. Initially, and because of its shape selectivity characteristics, copper-exchanged NaY zeolite, Cu(II)Y, was chosen to study the heterogeneity of copper catalyzed amination of aryl iodide with imidazole. The collected results from conducted shape selectivity tests indicated that Cu(II)Y might be heterogeneous catalyst, but because of the used base, that is crucial for this C-N coupling reaction, the crystallinity of the zeolite structure was diminished. Therefore, it was important to support copper on a framework that is stable under the basic conditions required for this type of reaction if a heterogeneous, recyclable catalyst were to be achieved. For this purpose, cerium oxide was chosen, and copper oxide supported on cerium oxide, CuO-CeO₂, was investigated as a potential heterogeneous catalyst for C-N coupling reaction. This investigation included the role of each reaction reagent in facilitating copper leaching into solution. It was found that copper leached from the support and it was demonstrated through hot filtration tests that the leached copper species was the main active catalyst. Leaching was caused by the solvent (DMSO) as well as the used reactants and the base. Similar conclusions were drawn when this CuO-CeO₂ catalyst was used for the direct synthesis of imines from amines under aerobic conditions. Although this CuO-CeO₂ catalyst has the advantages of being more recoverable and active than unsupported CuO nanoparticles at similar copper loadings, it is not fully recyclable, as the copper catalysis occurs in solution. These findings meant that designing a truly heterogeneous catalyst for this reaction is a challenging task. Understanding the effect of each individual factor of this complicated system might help in achieving the second goal - designing a truly heterogeneous catalyst. Therefore, further studies were carried out to understand the effect of reaction conditions, including temperature, base, support, and solvent, on copper leaching. Homocoupling of terminal alkynes was chosen as a model reaction for this study, and CuO was supported on TiO₂ (10CuO-TiO₂) and on γ-Al₂O₃ (10CuO-Al₂O₃). It was found that copper interaction with the support affects the extent of leaching as well as the nature and activity of leached species. High temperature also facilitates copper leaching especially when a ligating amine, like piperidine, is present in the system.