En Route to Discovery of Potential ‘Green’ Refrigerants

Refrigerants have a wide range of applications in Canada, from their support for the food industry (storage and transport) to their key role in recreational sports like hockey, curling and ice-skating. Although current hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants have solved previous problems associated with depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, they still suffer from high global warming potentials. More recently, these are being replaced by hydrofluoroalkene (HFA) refrigerants with considerably less global warming potential. Unfortunately, the synthetic paths to these new fluoroalkenes are energy-intensive and require harsh/caustic conditions, hydrogen fluoride, expensive reactors and heavy metals. In the enclosed project, we design base-metal catalyzed routes to these valuable refrigerants using a custom gas manifold for production, purification, and isolation of gases. Using base metal catalysts (cobalt and iron) and commercially available fluoroalkenes and alkynes, new economically and environmentally friendly hydrofluorocarbons and fluoroalkenes will be synthesized. This will allow our industry partner, Arkema (in Canada since 1957), to test the new compounds as refrigerants, foam-blowing agents, and new monomers in high-value fluoropolymers and offer the intern a unique training opportunity.

Behnaz Ghaffari
Faculty Supervisor: 
Tom Baker
Partner University: