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Catalysis group develops new approach to niacin synthesis

January 07, 2010

The use of niacin (3-picolinic acid or nicotinic acid) in foodstuffs and as a cholesterol-lowering agent is extensive. Until very recently, it has been been produced commercially by using procedures that are environmentally aggressive and have serious ecological drawbacks. Gas-phase ammoxidation of 3-picoline to nicotinonitrile (cyanopyridine) followed by hydrolysis to either nicotinamide or nicotinic acid using vanadium oxide catalysts has proved effective and offers an industrially viable strategy for the production of nicotinamide. More recently, liquid-phase oxidation processes that involve reacting 3-picoline with homogeneous cobalt and manganese acetates with hydrobromic acid at relatively high temperatures (483 K) and high pressures (100 atm) have been reported. The yields and selectivities are, however, quite low (32% conversion with 19% selectivity for nicotinic acid). Recent studies have also revealed that combinations of rhenium and antimony exhibit activity for the ammoxidation of certain hydrocarbons.

Through a collaborative effort, the Prof. Rick Adams and his research group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, along with their collaborators in the UK, have developed a new catalytic approach to the synthesis of niacin. The approach uses anammoxidation under mild conditions in the liquid phase, affording good yields and high selectivities. The catalysts are synthesized using compositionally simple (three- or four-atom) nanocluster precursors consisting of Re and either Sb or Bi, supported on a mesoporous SiO2. Considerable synergy is observed to exist between the constituent elements.

The article was recently published in Langmuir (Robert Raja, Richard D. Adams, Douglas A. Blom, William C. Pearl, Jr., Enrica Gianotti and John Meurig Thomas “New Catalytic Liquid-Phase Ammoxidation Approach to the Preparation of Niacin (Vitamin B3),” Langmuir, 2009, 25(13), pp 7200–7204 and the full details of this new study can be found online here.