The epoxidation of lower olefins, catalysed by titanium silicalite (TS-1) under mild conditions, is reported. The reaction may be performed at near room temperature, in dilute alcoholic or aqueous solutions of hydrogen peroxide. In methanol C4-C8linear olefins, allyl chloride, and allyl alcohol show fast reaction rates and high selectivities (72-97% on H2O2). The solvolysis of the oxirane ring and the oxidation of the solvent are the main side reactions. Yields and kinetics are decreased by increasing the chain length or the cross-section of the olefin (n-Cn> n-Cn+1, 1-hexene ≫ cyclohexene), by electron-withdrawing substituents (1-butene > allyl chloride > allyl alcohol), and by solvents in the order methanol > ethanol > t-butanol. The rate of reaction also depends on the position and steric configuration of the double bond and on the branching, as a result of inductive and shape selectivity effects: trans 2-butene < iso-butene < 1-butene < cis 2-butene, 2-methyl-1-butene < 1-pentene, and 3-methyl-1-butene < 2-methyl-1-butene < 2-methyl-2-butene. The epoxidation occurs with retention of configuration. Basic compounds at low concentration do not slow the kinetics, but do improve significantly the yields, up to 97% in the epoxidation of 1-butene. At higher concentrations, TS-1 activity is decreased and eventually inhibited by bases. No effect on kinetics is exerted by tetrapropylammonium hydroxide. Catalytic activity is improved by acids. A heterolytic peracid-like mechanism is envisaged in the oxygen-transfer step. A five-membered cyclic structure, formed by a titanium hydroperoxo moiety Ti-OOH, and a protic molecule ROH at Ti sites, is proposed as the active species. © 1993 Academic Press, Inc.
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