Carbonate esters


A carbonate ester (organic carbonate or organocarbonate) is an
ester An ester is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by chemic ...

carbonic acid In chemistry, carbonic acid is a dibasic acid with the chemical formula A chemical formula is a way of presenting information about the chemical proportions of s that constitute a particular or molecule, using symbols, numbers, and s ...

carbonic acid
. This
functional group In organic chemistry, a functional group is a substituent or moiety (chemistry), moiety in a molecule that causes the molecule's characteristic chemical reactions. The same functional group will undergo the same or similar chemical reactions re ...
consists of a
carbonyl In organic chemistry Organic chemistry is a branch of chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, pro ...

group flanked by two alkoxy groups. The general structure of these carbonates is R1O(C=O)OR2 and they are related to
ester An ester is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than one chemical element, element held together by chemic ...

s R1O(C=O)R, ethers R1OR2 and also to the inorganic chemistry, inorganic carbonates. Monomers of polycarbonate (e.g. Lexan) are linked by carbonate groups. These polycarbonates are used in eyeglass lenses, compact discs, and bulletproof glass. Small carbonate esters like dimethyl carbonate, ethylene carbonate, propylene carbonate are used as solvents, dimethyl carbonate is also a mild methylating agent.


Carbonate esters have planar OC(OC)2 cores, which confers rigidity. The unique O=C bond is short (1.173 Å in the depicted example), while the C-O bonds are more ether-like (the bond distances of 1.326 Å for the example depicted). Carbonate esters can be divided into three structural classes: acyclic, cyclic, and polymeric. The first and general case is the acyclic carbonate group. Organic substituents can be identical or not. Both aliphatic or aromatic substituents are known, they are called dialkyl or diaryl carbonates, respectively. The simplest members of these classes are dimethyl carbonate and diphenyl carbonate. Alternatively, the carbonate groups can be linked by a 2- or 3-carbon bridge, forming cyclic compounds such as ethylene carbonate and trimethylene carbonate. The bridging compound can also have substituents, e.g. CH3 for propylene carbonate. Instead of terminal alkyl or aryl groups, two carbonate groups can be linked by an aliphatic or aromatic bifunctional group. A third family of carbonates are the polymers, such as poly(propylene carbonate) and poly(bisphenol A carbonate) (Lexan).


Organic carbonates are not prepared from inorganic carbonate salts. Two main routes to carbonate esters are practiced: the reaction of an alcohol (or phenol) with phosgene (phosgenation), and the reaction of an alcohol with carbon monoxide and an oxidizer (oxidative carbonylation). Other carbonate esters may subsequently be prepared by transesterification. In principle carbonate esters can be prepared by direct condensation of methanol and carbon dioxide. The reaction is however thermodynamically unfavorable. A selective membrane can be used to separate the water from the reaction mixture and increase the yield. File:Dimethyl carbonate Structural Formulae.svg, Dimethyl carbonate, a representative acyclic carbonate ester File:Diphenyl_carbonate.png, Diphenyl carbonate, another representative acyclic carbonate ester File:Ethylene carbonate.png, Ethylene carbonate, a cyclic carbonate ester File:Trimethylene_carbonate.png, Trimethylene carbonate, another cyclic carbonate ester File:Polypropylene Carbonate 1.PNG, Poly(propylene carbonate) File:Lexan.svg, Poly(bisphenol A carbonate), a commercially important plastic (Lexan)


Alcohols react with phosgene to yield carbonate esters according to the following reaction: 2 ROH + COCl2 → RO(CO)OR + 2 HCl Phenols react similarly. Polycarbonate derived from bisphenol A is produced in this manner. This process is high yielding. However, toxic phosgene is used, and stoichiometric quantities of base (e.g. pyridine) are required to neutralize the hydrogen chloride that is cogenerated. Chloroformate esters are intermediates in this process. Rather than reacting with additional alcohol, they may disproportionate to give the desired carbonate diesters and one equivalent of phosgene: : PhOH + COCl2 → PhO(CO)Cl + HCl : 2 PhO(CO)Cl → PhO(CO)OPh + COCl2 Overall reaction is: : 2 PhOH + COCl2 → PhO(CO)OPh + 2 HCl

Oxidative carbonylation

Oxidative carbonylation is an alternative to phosgenation. The advantage is the avoidance of phosgene. Using copper catalysts, dimethylcarbonate is prepared in this way: : 2 MeOH + CO + 1/2 O2 → MeO(CO)OMe + H2O Diphenyl carbonate is also prepared similarly, but using palladium catalysts. The Pd-catalyzed process requires a cocatalyst to reconvert the Pd(0) to Pd(II). Manganese(III) acetylacetonate has been used commercially.

Reaction of carbon dioxide with epoxides

The reaction of carbon dioxide with epoxides is a general route to the preparation of cyclic 5-membered carbonates. Annual production of cyclic carbonates was estimated at 100,000 tonnes per year in 2010. Industrially, ethylene and propylene oxides readily react with carbon dioxide to give ethylene and propylene carbonates (with an appropriate catalyst). For example: : C2H4O + CO2 → C2H4O2CO Catalysts for this reaction have been reviewed, as have non-epoxide routes to these cyclic carbonates.

Carbonate transesterification

Carbonate esters can be converted to other carbonates by transesterification. A more nucleophilic alcohol will displace a less nucleophilic alcohol. In other words, aliphatic alcohols will displace phenols from aryl carbonates. If the departing alcohol is more volatile, the equilibrium may be driven by distilling that off.

From urea with alcohols

Dimethyl carbonate can be made from the reaction of methanol with urea. Ammonia that is produced can be recycled. Effectively ammonia serves as a catalyst for the synthesis of dimethyl carbonate. The byproducts are methyl- and N-methylcarbamate (the latter from the reaction between dimethyl carbonate and methyl carbamate). This process is not an economical.


Organic carbonates are used as solvents. They are classified as Chemical polarity, polar solvents and have a wide liquid temperature range. One example is propylene carbonate with melting point −55 °C and boiling point 240 °C. Other advantages are low ecotoxicity and good biodegradability. Many industrial production pathways for carbonates are not green because they rely on phosgene or propylene oxide.Sibiya, Mike Sbonelo
Catalytic transformation of propylene carbonate into dimethyl carbonate and propylene glycol
/ref> In Grignard reaction carbonate esters might be used to create tertiary alcohols. Organic carbonates are used as a solvent in Lithium battery, lithium batteries. Due to their high polarity, they dissolve lithium salts. The problem of high viscosity is circumvented by using mixtures for example of dimethyl carbonate, diethyl carbonate, and dimethoxyethane. Cyclic carbonates are susceptible to polymerization.


{{DEFAULTSORT:Carbonate Ester Carbonate esters, Functional groups