Petroleum-derived alkenes are cheap and abundant, and serve as feedstock for a variety of products ranging from plastics to complex pharmaceuticals. An issue that has hampered the use of this feedstock, however, is that alkenes are often produced as mixtures of regioisomers in which the carbon-carbon double bond is located at different positions across the backbone. Such mixtures are difficult to selectively convert into a single product — they typically yield multiple products that must be separated.
Chemists at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) have developed a process that reacts mixtures of alkenes with carbon dioxide over a nickel-based catalyst to produce a single fatty acid. The new process operates at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.
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