Hydrogen (H2) is widely used as a reductant for many hydrogenation reactions; however, it has not been recognized as a catalyst for the acid transformation of active sites on solid surface. Here, we report the H2-promoted hydration of alkenes (such as styrenes and cyclic alkenes) and epoxy alkanes over single-atom Co-dispersed nitrogen-doped carbon (Co-NC) via a transformation mechanism of acid-base sites. Specifically, the specific catalytic activity and selectivity of Co-NC are superior to those of classical solid acids (acidic zeolites and resins) per micromole of acid, whereas the hydration catalysis does not take place under a nitrogen atmosphere. Detailed investigations indicate that H2 can be heterolyzed on the Co-N bond to form Hδ-Co-N-Hδ+ and then be converted into OHδ-Co-N-Hδ+ accompanied by H2 generation via a H2O-mediated path, which significantly reduces the activation energy for hydration reactions. This work not only provides a novel catalytic method for hydration reactions but also removes the conceptual barriers between hydrogenation and acid catalysis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry