Site-specific catalytic activities to facilitate solvent-free aerobic oxidation of cyclohexylamine to cyclohexanone oxime over highly efficient Nb-modified SBA-15 catalysts†
The development of highly active and selective heterogeneous catalysts for efficient oxidation of cyclohexylamine to cyclohexanone oxime is a challenge associated with the highly sensitive nitrogen center of cyclohexylamine. In this work, dispersed Nb oxide supported on SBA-15 catalysts are disclosed to efficiently catalyze the selective oxidation of cyclohexylamine with high conversion (>75%) and selectivity (>84%) to cyclohexanone oxime by O2 without any addition of solvent (TOF = 469.8 h−1, based on the molar amount of Nb sites). The role of the active-site structure identity in dictating the site-specific catalytic activities is probed with the help of different reaction and control conditions and multiple spectroscopy methods. Complementary to the experimental results, further poisoning tests (with KSCN or dehydroxylation reagents) and DFT computational studies clearly unveil that the surface exposed active centers toward activation of the reactants are quite different: the surface –OH groups can catch the NH2 group from cyclohexylamine by forming a hydrogen bond and lead to a more facile cyclohexylamine oxidation to desired products, while the monomeric or oligomeric Nb sites with a highly distorted structure play a key role in the dissociation of O2 molecules beneficial for insertion of active oxygen species into cyclohexylamine. These catalysts exhibit not only satisfactory recyclability for cyclohexylamine oxidation but also efficiently catalyze the aerobic oxidation of a wide range of amines under solvent-free conditions.