By simply changing the solvent, organic reactions vital for producing the starting materials for many major industrial processes have been found to be faster and able to yield the desired product with close to 100% selectivity. In solution, the critical reaction between an iron(II) catalyst with ozone in the presence of one of a number of alcohols and ethers generates various useful products. Importantly, the active species in this reaction, iron(IV), is a short-lived oxidant that disappears quickly over the course of the reaction. Changing the solvent from water to acetonitrile creates the preferred conditions for the generation of this active intermediate, because the solvent alters the reaction pathways. The most exciting finding was that the oxidation process in acetonitrile was not only faster than in water, but also that some of the oxidations were much more selective and yielded the preferred product with a high level of selectivity. Uncovering optimal conditions for widely-used chemical reactions is vital to creating technologically viable pathways for more efficient, economical, and green chemical processing.
Iron(II) Catalysis in Oxidation of Hydrocarbons with Ozone in Acetonitrile