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Alkylation of Alkanes: More Efficient Use of Carbon Feedstocks through Tandem Catalysis
Two of the highest volume uses of petrochemicals are in the formation of long branched alkanes (gasoline additives and lubricants) and linear alkylbenzenes (surfactant precursors). We discuss our recent work on an alternative route to both sets of these chemicals based on tandem catalysis. Our route avoids the costly and energy intensive ethylene oligomerization process, instead using n-alkanes that are readily available via the Fischer-Tropsch process or biomass conversion. The intramolecular dehydroalkylation of a n-alkyltoluene to form dimethylnaphthylene is demonstrated as a proof-of-concept. We also discuss our current efforts towards intermolecular processes.