Formate as a key intermediate in CO2 utilization

Eric Schuler, Michele Morana, Pavel A. Ermolich, Kristian Lüschen, Adam J. Greer, S. F.Rebecca Taylor, Christopher Hardacre, N. Raveendran Shiju, Gert Jan M. Gruter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Replacing fossil feedstocks for chemicals and polymers in the chemical industry is a key step towards a future circular society. Making use of CO2 as a starting material in Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) processes presents a great opportunity. Unfortunately, converting CO2 is not easy - due to its stability and inherently low reactivity either high energy inputs or nifty catalytic systems are required for its conversion. An electrochemical cell using a gas-diffusion electrode to convert CO2 into formate is such a promising system. But making formate alone does not allow us to substitute many fossil carbon-fed processes. Oxalic acid on the other hand is a potential new platform chemical for material production as useful monomers such as glycolic acid can be derived from it. Fortunately, formate can be converted into oxalate (and subsequently oxalic acid) by coupling two formates in a formate to oxalate coupling reaction (FOCR). The FOCR is a reaction that has been studied for more than 175 years and has seen widespread industrial use in the past. In this work, we critically discuss the history of the FOCR, present the most recent advances and draw a perspective for its future. We provide an overview of all (side)products obtained in FOCR and examine the various reaction parameters and their ability to influence the reaction. To understand the reaction better and improve it in the future, we critically discuss the many mechanisms proposed for the various catalytic systems in the FOCR. At last, we explore the potential to introduce new catalytic and solvent systems or co-reactants to the FOCR to improve reaction performance and broaden the range of products from CO2 derived formate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8227-8258
Number of pages32
JournalGreen Chemistry
Issue number21
Early online date5 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 7 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement no. 767798.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Royal Society of Chemistry.


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