Azolium ions: A versatile framework for chemistry on early earth
Clairmont, Ryan Michael
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This work examines azolium catalysis of the small molecules formaldehyde and glyoxylic acid to yield product sugars as the starting point for synthesis of new azolium catalysts. It is broken into two projects: the first focusing on developing a proof of concept process to couple the two reactions, and the second expanding the reaction space using different solvents and catalyst. From these projects, a model for chemical evolution of small molecule catalysts was proposed. Reaction stoichiometry suggests that the process displays autocatalysis; however, the reactions were conducted separately so that kinetic enhancement was not observed. Even without kinetic enhancement, the findings indicate that synthesis of new catalyst from formaldehyde as the sole carbon source is possible, and that the process is robust due to effects such as catalyst deactivation or other loss pathways over time. Alternative work using glyoxylic acid demonstrated that the kinetics for carbohydrate synthesis are much slower.