Molybdenum-catalyzed conversion of diols and biomass-derived polyols to alkenes using isopropyl alcohol as reductant and solvent

Johannes Rytter Dethlefsen, Daniel Lupp, Ayele Teshome Gorfo, Lasse Bo Nielsen, Peter Fristrup

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Chemical processes capable of reducing the high oxygen content of biomass-derived polyols are in demand in order to produce renewable substitutes for chemicals of fossil origin. Deoxydehydration (DODH) is an attractive reaction that in a single step transforms a vicinal diol into an alkene, but the reaction requires a homogeneous catalyst, a reductant, and a solvent, which are typically expensive, unsustainable, or inefficient. Herein, we present the use of molybdenum(VI)-based compounds, in particular the cheap and commercially available (NH4)6Mo7O24·4H2O, as catalysts for the DODH of vicinal diols in isopropyl alcohol (iPrOH), which serves as both the solvent and reductant. The reaction proceeds at 240-250 °C in a pressurized autoclave, and the alkene yield from simple aliphatic diols can be as high as 77%. The major byproducts are carbonyl compounds - formed by dehydration of the diol - and the alcohols formed by transfer hydrogenation of the carbonyl compounds; the total yield of reduced species (i.e., alkene and alcohols) can be as high as 92%. The DODH of glycerol yields allyl alcohol, which undergoes subsequent Mo-catalyzed deoxygenation to propylene driven by the oxidation of iPrOH; a major byproduct is the homocoupled product 1,5-hexadiene. Further insight in this Mo-catalyzed deoxygenation is gained by an investigation of model compounds: The allylic alcohol 1-hexen-3-ol is deoxygenated to hexene isomers in a yield of 65%, while benzyl alcohol is deoxygenated to toluene in a yield of 93%. The DODH of erythritol yields 39% 2,5-dihydrofuran, while the DODH of the proposed intermediate 1,4-anhydroerythritol yields 75%. The mechanism of the DODH of 1,4-anhydroerythritol was investigated by means of density functional theory (DFT), and the rate-determining step (24.1 kcal/mol) was found to be reduction of a molybdenum(VI) diolate to a molybdenum(IV) diolate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)3638-3647
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Biomass
  • Deoxydehydration
  • Deoxygenation
  • Molybdenum
  • Polyols

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