Hydrogenations and Hydroformylations

Prof. Armin Börner

Homogeneously catalyzed hydrogenations and hydroformylations play an important role in a number of synthetic routes in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, as well for the preparation of synthetic fragrances, odors and agrochemicals. In particular hydrogenation can be considered as one of the most versatile methods for the preparation of alkanes, alcohols and amines, taking different starting products as the basis. The hydroformylation is a pivotal reaction for the transformation of alkenes into aldehydes. The latter represent important starting compounds for the preparation of other functionalized compounds (alcohols, carboxylic acids, amines etc.). A particular advantage of homogeneous catalysts lies in their high potential to run the reaction in a highly chemoselective, regioselective and stereoselective manner. The production of enantiomerically pure compounds is a point of emphasis in this activity area. 

In this department we have more than 20 years of experience in both areas. All aspects of modern catalysis research are considered, e.g. synthesis of substrates and chiral ligands, synthesis and comprehensive characterization - e.g. 103Rh-NMR and in situ HP-NMR spectroscopy, in situ HP-IR spectroscopy, in situ UV/Vis spectroscopy – of precatalysts and catalysts, investigation of stability of ligands and catalysts, DFT-calculations and kinetic investigations.

Reactions can be investigated under normal as well as under enhanced pressure (up to 200 bar), including the use of parallel autoclaves. There is the opportunity to upscale to 3000 l, in collaboration with a long-established partner in industry.

Besides these activities, strategies are developed on the basis of multi-step synthesis employing hydrogenation or hydroformylation steps, to avoid any breach of existing patents. For a few years now, heterogeneously catalyzed reactions are also under investigation.

In close collaboration with industry, practicable solutions are developed, targeting catalyst improvement, catalyst substitution or the creation of entirely new approaches. Currently, more than 10 innovations developed in the department have been commercialized or are in operation on an industrial scale.

Cooperations exist or respectively have been successfully carried out with the following: BASF (Ludwigshafen), Bayer Healthcare (Wuppertal), Boehringer-Ingelheim, ChiroBlock (Wolfen), Degussa Homogeneous Catalysts (Hanau), DSM (Basel), Esteve (Barcelona), Grünenthal (Aachen), Hansen & Rosenthal (Hamburg), Miltitz-Aromen (Leipzig), Miltitz Aromatics (Bitterfeld), Mitsubishi Gas Chemicals (Düsseldorf), Mitsubishi Gas Chemicals (Tokyo), Hüls AG/Oxeno C4-Chemie/Evonik Industries (Advanced Intermediates), ratiopharm (Ulm/Basel), Taminco (Gent), Solvias (Basel) and Uhde/ThyssenKrupp (Leuna).

The department is subdivided according to three topics: