Modifying the Electrocatalytic Selectivity of Oxidation Reactions with Ionic Liquids

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2022 Jul 18;61(29):e202202957. doi: 10.1002/anie.202202957. Epub 2022 May 24.


The "solid catalyst with ionic liquid layer" (SCILL) is an extremely successful new concept in heterogeneous catalysis. The idea is to boost the selectivity of a catalyst by its modification with an ionic liquid (IL). Here, we show that it is possible to use the same concept in electrocatalysis for the selective transformation of organic compounds. We scrutinize the electrooxidation of 2,3-butanediol, a reaction which yields two products, singly oxidized acetoin and doubly oxidized diacetyl. When adding the IL (1-ethyl-3-methyl-imidazolium trifluormethanesulfonate, [C2 C1 Im][OTf]), the selectivity for acetoin increases drastically. By in situ spectroscopy, we analyze the underlying mechanism: Specific adsorption of the IL anions suppresses the activation of water for the second oxidation step and, thus, enhances the selectivity for acetoin. Our study demonstrates the great potential of this approach for selective transformation of organic compounds.

Keywords: Electrochemistry; Interphases; Ionic Liquids; Reaction Mechanisms; Solid Catalyst with Ionic Liquid Layer.