Flow Chemistry Syntheses of Styrenes, Unsymmetrical Stilbenes and Branched Aldehydes



Two tandem flow chemistry processes have been developed. A single palladium-catalysed Heck reaction with ethylene gas provides an efficient synthesis for functionalised styrenes. Through further elaboration the catalyst becomes multi-functional and performs a second Heck reaction providing a single continuous process for the synthesis of unsymmetrical stilbenes. In addition, the continuous, rhodium-catalysed, hydroformylation of styrene derivatives with syngas affords branched aldehydes with good selectivity. Incorporation of an in-line aqueous wash and liquid–liquid separation allowed for the ethylene Heck reaction to be telescoped into the hydroformylation step such that a single flow synthesis of branched aldehydes directly from aryl iodides was achieved. The tube-in-tube semi-permeable membrane-based gas reactor and liquid–liquid separator both play an essential role in enabling these telescoped flow processes.