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Wacker process

Wacker process, an industrial process for the manufacture of ethanol by oxidizing ethene. For example, bubbling ethylene and oxygen when treated by an acidified water solution of palladium and cupric chlorides yield acetaldehyde; reaction is catalyzed by PdCl2-CuCl2. During the reaction palladium forms a complex with ethylene, is reduced to Pd(0), and is then reoxidized by Cu(II). The process is run in one vessel at 50–130°C and at pressures of 3–10 atm. Regeneration of cupric chloride occurs in a separate oxidizer. The favorable economics of the process is due to the abundance of ethylene. Oxidation of propylene to acetone is accomplished at 110–120°C with 10–14 atm.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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