Reaction Mechanisms in the Direct Carboxylation of Alcohols for the Synthesis of Acyclic Carbonates

Michele Aresta, Angela Dibenedetto, Antonella Angelini, Imre Pápai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


Dialkylcarbonates, (RO)2CO, can be prepared from alcohols and CO2. Such reaction is clean (water is the co-product) but thermodynamically disfavored. In principle, the reaction mechanism of formation of carbonates requires the acid-base activation of alcohols. Existing data support that the first step is the formation of the alkoxo group RO- that reacts with CO2 to give the hemicarbonate moiety ROC(O)O-. The latter converts into the relevant carbonate (RO)2CO following different pathways depending on the catalyst used. DFT calculations have been used in a few cases to support the reaction mechanism. Transition states relevant to various mechanistic scenarios have been identified. The results indicated that the relative energies of these transition states depend on the nature of the alkyl group and the molecularity of the reactive step. Organic catalysts, homogeneous-, heterogenized- and heterogeneous-metal systems are discussed in this paper and the known relevant mechanisms compared. Water represents a serious limitation to equilibrium shift to the right and can affect the catalysts. Techniques used to remove water are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-14
Number of pages13
JournalTopics in Catalysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 30 2015


  • Alcohols carboxylation
  • Organic acyclic carbonates
  • Reaction mechanism
  • Water removal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)

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