While metal phosphides have begun to attract attention as electrocatalysts, they remain underutilized in the field of liquid-phase molecular transformations. Herein, we describe a supported cobalt phosphide nanoalloy (nano-Co2P) that functions as a highly efficient, reusable heterogeneous catalyst for the selective hydrogenation of furfural derivatives. The carbonyl moieties of several furfural derivatives were selectively hydrogenated to produce the desired products in high yields. In contrast to conventional nonprecious metal catalysts, nano-Co2P uniquely exhibited air stability, which enabled easy and safe handling and precluded the need for H2 pretreatment. Infrared and density functional theory studies revealed that the highly efficient hydrogenation is due to the favorable activation of the carbonyl moiety of furfural derivatives through the backdonation to its π* orbital from the Co d-electrons.

The paper is published in ACS Catal. 11, 750 (2021).

This entry was posted on 2020/10/20.