Interfacing single-atom catalysis with continuous-flow organic electrosynthesis
The global warming crisis has sparked a series of environmentally cautious trends in chemistry, allowing us to rethink the way we conduct our synthesis, and to incorporate more earth-abundant materials in our catalyst design. “Single-atom catalysis” has recently appeared on the catalytic spectrum, and has truly merged the benefits that homogeneous and heterogeneous analogues have to offer. Further still, the possibility to activate these catalysts by means of a suitable electric potential could pave the way for a true integration of diverse synthetic methodologies and renewable electricity. Despite their esteemed benefits, single-atom electrocatalysts are still limited to the energy sector (hydrogen evolution reaction, oxygen reduction, etc.) and numerous examples in the literature still invoke the use of precious metals (Pd, Pt, Ir, etc.). Additionally, batch electroreactors are employed, which limit the intensification of such processes. It is of paramount importance that the field continues to grow in a more sustainable direction, seeking new ventures into the space of organic electrosynthesis and flow electroreactor technologies. In this piece, we discuss some of the progress being made with earth abundant homogeneous and heterogeneous electrocatalysts and flow electrochemistry, within the context of organic electrosynthesis, and highlight the prospects of alternatively utilizing single-atom catalysts for such applications.