Conversion of CO2 to Polycarbonates and Other Materials: Insights through Computational Chemistry
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The use of carbon dioxide as a chemical feedstock for the copolymerization with epoxides to give polycarbonates, and for coupling with hydrocarbons to give carboxylic acids, was probed using computational chemistry. Metal-free systems were modeled at high levels using composite methods that give “chemical accuracy”, whereas metal-bound systems were studied using density functional theory, benchmarked to these high-accuracy results for confidence. The thermodynamics of polymer vs. cyclic carbonate formation was calculated, and polymer is the exothermic product, whereas cyclic carbonate is the entropic product. The barriers for the metal-free carbonate and alkoxide backbiting reactions were also determined, carbonate backbiting having a higher barrier than alkoxide backbiting. The base degradation of polymers to epoxide co-monomers, and the acid- and base-catalyzed degradation of glycerol carbonate to glycidol were investigated too. Poly(cyclopentene carbonate) preferentially degrades to epoxide co-monomer instead of cyclic carbonate due to angle strain for alkoxide backbiting. Conversely, glycerol carbonate only yields glycidol instead of the isomeric 3-hydroxyoxetane because formation of the latter has a higher barrier. The (salen)Cr(III)- and (salen)Co(III)-catalyzed copolymerization reactions were studied for a variety of epoxides, and the overall displacement of a polymeric carbonate by an epoxide, followed by ring-opening, was found to be rate limiting. Chromium(III)-catalyzed systems have higher free energy barriers than cobalt(III) systems due to enthalpy, which explains why such polymerization reactions have to be run at higher temperatures. The metal-bound polymer carbonate and alkoxide backbiting reactions generally have higher barriers than when unbound, due to the terminal oxygen atoms’ reduced nucleophilicity. The carboxylation of metal-hydride and metal-carbon bonds was studied for a series of trans-ML2XY complexes, and thermodynamics of carboxylation of the M-X bond are influenced by M, L, and Y, in decreasing order. Similar cis-complexes did not exhibit as clear trends. Examination of these complexes indicated that the three steps for the overall conversion of hydrocarbons to carboxylic acids (oxidative addition of hydrocarbon, carboxylation, and reductive elimination of the carboxylic acid) must be optimized in parallel for the successful direct synthesis of carboxylic acids.
Yeung, Andrew D (2014). Conversion of CO2 to Polycarbonates and Other Materials: Insights through Computational Chemistry. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from