Cyclic carbonates find a wide range of industrial applications: they are used as polar solvents, precursors for polycarbonate materials, electrolytes in lithium batteries, in the production of pharmaceuticals and as raw materials in various chemical reactions. Our approach to the synthesis of cyclic carbonates is mainly based on two strategies: i) the reaction of CO2 or urea with polyols, and (ii) the oxidative carboxylation of olefins.
The former reaction has successfully been applied to the synthesis of glycerol catbonate (a process assessed at the demo scale) and to the synthesis of Trimethylenecatbonate from 1,3-propanediol using recyclable catalysts with high yield and selectivity.
The oxidative carboxylation of olefins consists of a two-step reaction using a metal oxide as O-transfer to the olefin to afford the epoxide that is subsequently reacted with CO2 to afford the carbonate. The metal oxide is then re-oxidized with air in a separated step. In this way molecular oxygen and the olefin do not get in touch and radical processes are avoided.