Graphene oxide (GO) was found to be a metal-free, water-tolerant and high-efficiency catalyst towards the cycloaddition of carbon dioxide (CO 2) to propylene oxide (PO) for the synthesis of propylene carbonate (PC) at room temperature (RT) and atmospheric pressure without the need for a solvent. Using GO as catalyst and tetrabutylammonium bromide (Bu4NBr) as co-catalyst, PO is rapidly converted to PC with 96% yield and 100% selectivity under relatively mild conditions (100 °C, 2.25 MPa, 1 h). The effects of catalyst amount, temperature, time and water (H2O) addition on the reaction were investigated. It is found that the presence of a proper amount of H2O enhances the conversion of epoxide remarkably. A comparison of the catalytic activities of a number of reduced graphene oxide (r-GO) samples under similar reaction conditions revealed that it is the hydroxyl groups (rather than the carboxyl groups) on GO that form hydrogen bonds with PO, and act synergistically with halide anions to promote the cycloaddition reaction. A possible mechanism is proposed.
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