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5.5 The Wacker Process

DOI: 10.1055/sos-SD-225-00225

Race, N. J.; Patel, H. H.; Sigman, M. S.Science of Synthesis: Catalytic Oxidation in Organic Synthesis, (20171429.

General Introduction

The palladium-catalyzed oxidation of ethene to acetaldehyde through addition of water, in the presence of copper(II) chloride and molecular oxygen, is known as the Wacker process (Scheme 1). Since its discovery in 1959 by Smidt and co-workers, it has been successfully implemented as an industrial process for the large-scale production of acetaldehyde.[‌1‌,‌2‌] Moreover, this discovery also represents the dawn of palladium catalysis in organic chemistry. The selective addition of heteroatom nucleophiles to alkenes continues to be an area of great interest and impact.[‌3‌]

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