Single-Step Access to Long-Chain α,ω-Dicarboxylic Acids by Isomerizing Hydroxycarbonylation of Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Verena Goldbach, Laura Falivene, Lucia Caporaso, Luigi Cavallo, Stefan Mecking

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39 Scopus citations


Dicarboxylic acids are compounds of high value, but to date long-chain alpha,omega-dicarboxylic acids have been difficult to access in a direct way. Unsaturated fatty acids are ideal starting materials with their molecular structure of long methylene sequences and a carboxylate functionality, in addition to a double bond that offers itself for functionalization. Within this paper, we established a direct access to alpha,omega-dicarboxylic acids by combining isomerization and selective terminal carbonylation of the internal double bond with water as a nucleophile on unsaturated fatty acids. We identified the key elements of this reaction: a homogeneous reaction mixture ensuring sufficient contact between all reactants and a catalyst system allowing for activation of the Pd precursor under aqueous conditions. Experiments under pressure reactor conditions with [(dtbpx)Pd(OTf)(2)] as catalyst precursor revealed the importance of nucleophile and reactant concentrations and the addition of the diprotonated diphosphine ligand (dtbpxH(2))(OTf)(2) to achieve turnover numbers >120. A variety of unsaturated fatty acids, including a triglyceride, were converted to valuable long-chain dicarboxylic acids with high turnover numbers and selectivities for the linear product of >90%. We unraveled the activation pathway of the Pd-II precursor, which proceeds via a reductive elimination step forming a Pd species and oxidative addition of the diprotonated diphosphine ligand, resulting in the formation of the catalytically active Pd hydride species. Theoretical calculations identified the hydrolysis as the rate-determining step. A low nucleophile concentration in the reaction mixture in combination with this high energetic barrier limits the potential of this reaction. In conclusion, water can be utilized as a nucleophile in isomerizing functionalization reactions and gives access to long-chain dicarboxylic acids from a variety of unsaturated substrates. The activity of the catalytic system of hydroxycarbonylation ranks as one of the highest achieved for isomerizing functionalizations in combination with a high selectivity for the linear product.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8229-8238
Number of pages10
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 9 2016

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: V.G. gratefully acknowledges support by the Carl-Zeiss-Foundation through a graduate fellowship. We thank Adrian Donner for ESI-MS measurements.


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