Heterogeneous hydrogenation – an old reaction still valuable for modern processes



Senior Project Leader, Ligands & Speciality Products, Solvias AG, Switzerland

Metal catalysed reactions are well established in synthetic organic chemistry, from research laboratories to industrial fine chemistry and kiloton production. They cover a wide range of transformations, e.g. heterogeneous chemoselective hydrogenations, homogeneous enantioselective hydrogenations, hydrofunctionalization, C-C and C-X couplings.
Still today, new types of metal catalysed reactions are being developed. While academic research mainly focuses on homogeneous catalysis, heterogeneous catalysis plays a major role in industry. In particular, as many as 10% of all industrial reactions in fine chemistry are heterogeneous catalytic hydrogenations.

The first heterogeneous hydrogenation was the nickel catalysed hydrogenation of alkenes, discovered by Paul Sabatier in 1897. For this work he received the Nobel Prize in 1912. More than 120 years later, heterogeneous hydrogenations are still considered as important and well-established reactions in organic chemistry. Meanwhile, also other metals like cobalt or precious metals such as palladium or platinum on an inert carrier are used. Nowadays, heterogeneous hydrogenations are getting more and more ...