Imines are important precursors for the production of amines, chemical buildings blocks used in plastics, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Although the hydrogenation reaction from imines to primary amines is straightforward, the subsequent condensation reaction towards secondary amines and imines results in loss of selectivity. The industrially relevant selective hydrogenation of imines towards primary amines can be steered by altering the catalyst with modifying agents or by adding supplements to the reaction, however, this process is still poorly understood.
In this project we want to investigate the mechanism of the subsequent condensation reaction and the interaction between the catalyst and modifying agents using various in situ and operando spectroscopy techniques such as FT-IR, Raman and UV-Vis spectroscopy combined with ex situ techniques such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), thermally programmed desorption (TPD) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The insight obtained in the combined studies will be used to further improve the existing catalyst synthesis and design new catalysts specifically for this reaction. The new catalyst materials could improve the overall selectivity and efficiency of a process widely used in industry.