Synthesis of carbonyl compounds from alcohols using electrochemically generated superoxide ions in RTILs

Praneshwar Sethupathy, Inas M. Alnashef, John R. Monnier, Michael A. Matthews, John W. Weidner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We show that the superoxide ion (O 2 •-) generated electrochemically from oxygen dissolved in room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) reacts with primary and secondary alcohols to form the corresponding ketones and carboxylic acids, respectively. Specifically, we study the conversion of benzhydrol to benzophenone and benzyl alcohol to benzaldehyde/benzoic acid. The kinetics (e.g., rate, selectivity, and yield) for these reactions are also determined as functions of the variations in the structure of the ionic liquids. The RTILs used here are imidazolium-based cations where the functional groups on the imidazolium ring are modified. Specifically, 1-butyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate [bmim][PF 6], 1-butyl-2,3-dimethylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate [bdmim][PF 6], and 1-hexyl-3-methylimidazolium hexafluorophosphate [hmim][PF 6] are used as the reaction medium. These results are compared to an ammonium-based RTIL (N-butyl-N-trimethylammonium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide). The results show that the nucleophilic attack by the O 2 •- of both the RTIL and the alcohol, especially that of the H atom at the R2 position of the [bmim][PF 6] and [hmim][PF 6], greatly affects the yields. No RTIL degradation products were detected for the reactions in [bdmim][PF 6] and N-butyl-N-trimethylammonium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide ionic liquids. For the benzyl alcohol oxidation reaction in the RTIL, N-butyl-N-trimethylammonium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl)imide, benzaldehyde formed did not undergo further oxidation to form benzoic acid, which may be due to the greater hydrophobicity of this RTIL. The competitive reaction kinetics between the alcohol and RTIL component must be considered in the selection of the RTIL solvent system.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)3632-3647
Number of pages16
JournalSynthetic Communications
Issue number24
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2012


  • Alcohols
  • carbonyl compounds
  • electrochemistry
  • oxidation
  • room temperature ionic liquids
  • superoxide ions


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