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Investigations on the use of main group metal complexes of salen ligands as catalysts for the copolymerization of CO2 and epoxides
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Current industrial processes for the production of polycarbonates, a thermoplastic valued for commercial applications, leave much to be desired from an environmental viewpoint. Research into alternative methods for production of polycarbonates has focused on the copolymerization of carbon dioxide and epoxides for the benefits of eliminating phosgene as a reagent, and for the economic impact of incorporating CO2 as a low cost C1 feedstock. Early work in this field focused on the use of zinc-derived catalysts, but recent studies indicate that chromium complexes of the salen (N,N-bis-(salicylidene)-1,2-ethylene diimine) family of ligands are far superior to the zinc complexes in terms of reactivity and diminishing the formation of unwanted byproducts. Concomitant to the studies of chromium salen complexes, investigations of main-group salen metal complexes were carried out. Aluminum complexes were able to produce polycarbonate in the presence of tetrabutyl ammonium salts and neutral Lewis bases. Gallium complexes were essentially inactive for generating any product. Tin(IV) complexes were active for the production of polyether, the result of homopolymerization of epoxide without CO2 insertion. Tin(II) complexes generated the monomeric cyclic carbonate product but no copolymer. An additional aspect of research relative to this field of study is the development of polymeric materials from several different epoxide monomers. The complex [hydrotris(3-phenyl-pyrazol-1-yl)borate]Cd(II) acetate was used to study the thermodynamics of the binding of a series of potential epoxide monomers to a metal center via 113Cd NMR. Activation of the epoxide by a metal center was found to not play a significant role in the ability of the complex to be subsequently ring-opened for polymerization. A final relevant area of study involved the synthesis of cadmium analogues of Fe/Zn double metal cyanide (DMC) complexes. Heterogeneous DMCs are well known in patent literature as excellent catalysts for the production of polycarbonates and cyclic carbonates from CO2 and epoxides. Previous studies on homogeneous Fe/Zn DMCs have only provided cyclic carbonate. Cd analogues of these species provide a convenient NMR handle for studies on the activity of the metal centers in presence of an epoxide and by changes to the DMC structure.
Billodeaux, Damon Ray (2005). Investigations on the use of main group metal complexes of salen ligands as catalysts for the copolymerization of CO2 and epoxides. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from