Selective Phenol Hydrogenation To Cyclohexanone Over A Dual Supported Pd–Lewis Acid Catalyst
Cyclohexanone is an industrially important intermediate in the synthesis of materials such as nylon, but preparing it efficiently through direct hydrogenation of phenol is hindered by over-reduction to cyclohexanol. Here we report that a previously unappreciated combination of two common commercial catalysts―nanoparticulate palladium (supported on carbon, alumina, or NaY zeolite) and a Lewis acid such as AlCl3―synergistically promotes this reaction. Conversion exceeding 99.9% was achieved with >99.9% selectivity within 7 hours at 1.0-megapascal hydrogen pressure and 50°C. The reaction was accelerated at higher temperature or in a compressed CO2 solvent medium. Preliminary kinetic and spectroscopic studies suggest that the Lewis acid sequentially enhances the hydrogenation of phenol to cyclohexanone and then inhibits further hydrogenation of the ketone.