Recently, Prof. Tao Zhang’s team from DICP, in collaboration with Prof. Jingyue Liu from ASU, has made new progress in single-atom catalysis. They report FeOx-supported platinum single-atom and pseudo-single-atom structures as highly active, chemoselective, and reusable catalysts for hydrogenation of a variety of substituted nitroarenes. For hydrogenation of 3-nitrostyrene, the catalyst yields a TOF of ~1500 h-1, 20-fold higher than the best result reported in literature, and a selectivity to 3-aminostyrene close to 99%, the best ever achieved over platinum group metals. The superior performance can be attributed to the presence of positively charged platinum centers and the absence of Pt-Pt metallic bonding, both of which favor the preferential adsorption of nitro groups. The work has been recently published in Nature Communications (Nature Communications, 5, 5634, 2014).
The catalytic hydrogenation of nitroarenes to anilines is one of the most important reactions in fine chemical industry, and has widespread applications in the fields of agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and dyes. Most of the precious metal catalysts, however, suffer from low chemoselectivity when one or more reducible groups are present in a nitroarene molecule. The single-atom and pseudo-single-atom catalysts will provide an environmentally benign and effective approach to solve the current industry problems, and thus will find wide applications in related fields.