Catalytic Hydrogenation of Chiral α-Amino and α-Hydroxy Esters at Room Temperature with Nishimura Catalyst without Racemization



The hydrogenation of carboxylic acid derivatives at room temperature was investigated. With a mixed Rh/Pt oxide (Nishimura catalyst), low to medium activity was observed for various α-amino and α-hydroxy esters. At 100 bar hydrogen pressure and 10% catalysts loading, high yields of the desired amino alcohols and diols were obtained without racemization. The most suitable α-substituents were NH2, NHR, and OH, whereas β-NH2 were less effective. Usually, aromatic rings were also hydrogenated, but with the free bases of amino acids as substrates, some selectivity was observed. No reaction was found for α-NR2, α-OR, and unfunctionalized esters; acids and amides were also not reduced under these conditions. A working hypothesis for the mode of action of the catalyst is presented.