Research ArticleChemistry

Intermetallic nickel silicide nanocatalyst—A non-noble metal–based general hydrogenation catalyst

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Science Advances  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaat0761
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0761


Hydrogenation reactions are essential processes in the chemical industry, giving access to a variety of valuable compounds including fine chemicals, agrochemicals, and pharmachemicals. On an industrial scale, hydrogenations are typically performed with precious metal catalysts or with base metal catalysts, such as Raney nickel, which requires special handling due to its pyrophoric nature. We report a stable and highly active intermetallic nickel silicide catalyst that can be used for hydrogenations of a wide range of unsaturated compounds. The catalyst is prepared via a straightforward procedure using SiO2 as the silicon atom source. The process involves thermal reduction of Si–O bonds in the presence of Ni nanoparticles at temperatures below 1000°C. The presence of silicon as a secondary component in the nickel metal lattice plays the key role in its properties and is of crucial importance for improved catalytic activity. This novel catalyst allows for efficient reduction of nitroarenes, carbonyls, nitriles, N-containing heterocycles, and unsaturated carbon–carbon bonds. Moreover, the reported catalyst can be used for oxidation reactions in the presence of molecular oxygen and is capable of promoting acceptorless dehydrogenation of unsaturated N-containing heterocycles, opening avenues for H2 storage in organic compounds. The generality of the nickel silicide catalyst is demonstrated in the hydrogenation of over a hundred of structurally diverse unsaturated compounds. The wide application scope and high catalytic activity of this novel catalyst make it a nice alternative to known general hydrogenation catalysts, such as Raney nickel and noble metal–based catalysts.

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