Iron-Based Catalysts Replace Precious Metals in Alcohol and Amine Synthesis - Toronto University

Researchers at University of Toronto have formulated a new series of techniques to produce iron-based catalysts required in the synthesis of amine and alcohols used in the drug and perfume industry. As per the researchers, these new methods are more economical, safer, and more Eco-friendly as compared to the traditional industrial process, which uses rare elements like ruthenium, rhodium, palladium and platinum.


Replacing these precious metals with Iron, Earth’s fifth most abundant metal, resulted in the creation of some exceptional iron complexes that surpassed in abilities over the traditional industrial catalysts. Chemistry professor Robert Morris stated of a world-wide research going on where all the expensive and the poisonous are subjected to be replaced by the inexpensive and the natural. And this could be achieved by abundant ions like iron. Also, Iron is 10000 times more cheaper to obtain compared to ruthenium, and is way less toxic. Morris added that they've worked up a way to make the ferrous form of iron behave much more efficiently in a catalytic process as compared to any precious metal. And this they achieved by bonding molecules containing nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon and hydrogen that enhance the reactivity of iron.

The scientists employed these cheap methods to produce several alcohols with different biological characteristics to be employed in flavor and drug synthesis, and with different smells for the perfume industry. In one method, an alcohol required for a cancer treatment was developed with hydrogenation process catalyzed by iron.

Tech-incubator GreenCentre Canada is already planning commercialization of these iron-based catalysts.


  • Raj A
    Raj A
    Could you please elaborate, Iron in which form was used? Do they use Iron in powder form? Please tell.

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