Catalytic non-redox carbon dioxide fixation in cyclic carbonates

S. Subramanian§, J. Oppenheim§, D. Kim§, T. S. Nguyen, W. M. H. Silo, B. Kim, W. A. Goddard III*, C. T. Yavuz* 
Chem, 5, 3232-3242 (2019). §: Equal contribution.
DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2019.10.009

If cycloaddition of CO2 to epoxides is to become a viable non-redox CO2 fixation path, it is crucial that researchers develop an active, stable, selective, metal-free, reusable, and cost-effective catalyst. To this end, we report here a new catalyst that is based on imidazolinium functionality and is synthesized from an unprecedented, one-pot reaction of the widely available monomers terephthalaldehyde and ammonium chloride. We show that this covalent organic polymer (COP)-222 exhibits quantitative conversion and selectivity for a range of substrates under ambient conditions and without the need for co-catalysts, metals, solvent, or pressure. COP-222 is recyclable and has been demonstrated to retain complete retention of activity for over 15 cycles. Moreover, it is scalable to at least a kilogram scale. We determined the reaction mechanism by using quantum mechanics (density functional theory), showing that it involves nucleophilic-attack-driven epoxide ring opening (ND-ERO). This contrasts with the commonly assumed mechanism involving the concerted addition of chemisorbed CO2.
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