Lebedev process

What is Lebedev process?

The Lebedev process, named after its discoverer in 1928, is an industrial method for producing butadiene from ethanol. The reaction involves dehydration and dehydrogenation processes, which are facilitated by a catalyst.

Lebedev process - general reaction scheme
Lebedev process

The most effective catalyst is a silica gel impregnated with tantalum oxide, although copper can also be added to improve results. The butadiene produced is primarily used in the production of synthetic rubber.

Various mechanisms have been proposed to explain the process, including the formation of intermediates such as acetaldehyde, ethylene, butanediols, and diethyl ether. However, none of these mechanisms have been supported by evidence and have been found to be inconsistent with advanced organic chemistry. Evidence suggests that crotonaldehyde and ethanol EtOH are converted to butadiene more easily than ethanol and acetaldehyde, with acetaldehyde being produced by the time crotonaldehyde is converted. The silica component of the catalyst appears to facilitate the condensation of acetaldehyde to crotonaldehyde, while tantalum promotes the deoxygenation of crotonaldehyde using ethanol as a hydrogen donor.

During World War II, both the former Soviet Union and Germany utilized Lebedev process to produce butadiene for the production of synthetic rubber.

References

Lebedev, S. V., “Process for obtaining diolefins directly from alcohols” French Patent, 1928, FR 665917

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