Another step forward for green chemistry

McGill researchers find small quantities of silver can serve as an efficient catalyst to convert aldehydes to acids

A tiny bit of silver, combined with water and air, can convert aldehydes into acids efficiently -- instead of the classical methods using stoichiometric amounts of expensive or toxic metal oxidants, according to a new study by McGill University researchers.

Published: 27 March 2015

The findings, published March 27 in the journal Science Advances, could lead to a variety of possible applications in the chemical industry. The results also promise to advance the search for more environmentally friendly chemical conversion reactions using air as a green oxidant, said Chao-Jun Li, senior author of the paper and Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry at McGill.

For the past two decades, researchers at McGill and elsewhere have been exploring ways to do away with chemists’ traditional reliance on non-renewable petrochemical feedstocks, less efficient chemical transformations and toxic solvents. One important method has involved using water as a solvent.

The other authors of the new paper are Mingxin Liu, Haining Wang and Huiying Zeng, also of McGill’s Department of Chemistry.

The research was supported by the Canada Research Chairs program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Le Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


“Silver(I) as a widely applicable, homogeneous catalyst for aerobic oxidation of aldehydes toward carboxylic acids in water—‘silver mirror’: From stoichiometric to catalytic”, Mingxin Liu et al, Science Advances, 27 March 2015. 10.1126/sciadv.1500020


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