Catalysis towards a unified approach

FineCat 2016


Giulio Deganello opening FineCat 2016, Palermo 6 April 2016"700 years old Steri Palace for scientific lectures! Once in your life!" tweeted from his account Professor Valentine P. Ananikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, one of the world's greatest living chemists.

Inaugurated by a welcome address of former Palermo's University Professor Giulio Deganello, founder of Palermo's chemistry Institute of Italy's Research Council, the Symposium the 5th edition of the "FineCat Symposium on heterogeneous catalysis for fine chemicals" was successfully held on April 6-7 in the splendid Sala delle Capriate of the Steri Palace, with the invited lectures of eminent scientists Valentine Ananikov and Bert Sels.

The Symposium ended on the late evening of April 7th with the social dinner at the Tasca d'Almerita estate (watch the Symposium video).

The presence of delegates from Norway, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland, UK and Italy testified once again to the truly international nature of this Symposium series inaugurated in 2012, that is emerging as a not-to-miss event in the field of heterogeneous (molecular, metal and bio) catalysis for fine chemicals synthesis (watch the photogallery).

Invited Lectures

Tweet of Professor Ananikov from Palermo's FineCat 2016 Professor Valentine P. Ananikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, discussed heterogeneous catalysis in the eyes of a (fine) organic chemist.

Recent work from his research Group has shown that homogeneous catalytic reactions are in fact due to “cocktail”-like systems, namely to participation of different metal species in the catalytic transformation; whereas heterogeneous catalysis often involves formation of a number of active species that possess dynamic properties and interconversions on the surface.

In his lecture, Academician Ananikov also discussed strategies to reducing the cost of metal catalysts, devise leach-proof synthetic strategies and use easily available metal precursors.

The development of new, advanced platforms where to carry out expedited research on heterogeneous catalysis is of great practical relevance; particularly in the context of the biorefinery where oxygenated substrates are to be rapidly and selectively converted.

Professor Bert Sels, UniversitÚ Catholique de Louvain, Leuven, Belgium, discussed how Sn tetrahedrally incorporated into microporous silica frameworks such as zeolites and structured mesoporous silica can be used as heterogeneous Lewis acid catalysts in a wide range of organic reactions.

A remarkable example, amongst others that were presented, is the conversion of carbohydrates into platform and commodity chemicals such as lactic acid or alkyl lactates, where the activity and selectivity of Sn-based materials largely surpasses those of homogeneous Sn catalysts.

Oral Presentation

 Dr Jan SchŘtz, DSM Nutritional Products, Basel, discussed aldol condensation reactions of various aldehydes and ketones catalyzed by basic ion exchange resins. The anionic (basic) ion exchange resins generally containing quaternary ammonium groups were tested and compared in batch and continuous reaction mode with regard to activity and selectivity. Examples of condensed products include timberone, which has a woody, amberlike odor and is valued in the fragrance industry for manufacturing perfumes and cosmetics, obtained starting from citral and 2-pentanone and further conversion.

FineCat 2016 - Poster of the 5th edition of the Symposium Professor Cristina Della Pina, Department of Chemistry, University of Milan, discussed the novel use of nanoferrites as catalysts (and fillers) for polyaniline (PANI) composites preparation. Her team recently reported a new method to produce electrical and magnetic polyaniline/ferrite nanocomposites, whereby the magnetic nanoparticles played the dual role of catalyst and magnetic filler. Now the team has investigated the catalytic properties of different nanoferrites in the N-(4-aminophenyl)aniline oxidative polymerization to achieve PANI/MFe2O4 nanocomposites displaying notable electrical and magnetic properties.

Dr Piera Demma CarÓ, post-doc research assistant at the MicroBioRefinery at the Chemistry Department of the University of Liverpool, presented the one-pot conversion of cellobiose, a model compound for polysaccharides, into sugar alcohols over ruthenium-based bifunctional catalysts. Ru nanoparticles impregnated on Amberlyst 15 are very active and selective towards sorbitol under 40 bar of hydrogen pressure in water, affording a yield of sorbitol >80% in 5 h, much higher than the 53% yield obtained using a mixture of the solid acid A15 and Ru/C.
Ludivine van den Biggelar, PhD student at the UniversitÚ Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, discussed the successful use of silica-supported transaminases in continuous flow to catalyse asymmetric reductive aminations and prepare valued chiral amines.

Chiara Pezzotta, a PhD candidate at UniversitÚ catholique de Louvain, presented interesting results concerning different rejuvenation strategies of titania-entrapped heteropolyacid solid catalysts for the Friedel-Crafts alkylation.

Dr Francesco Parrino, post-doctoral researcher in the “Schiavello-Grillone” research Group of Palermo's University, highlighted new results obtained in co-operation with Italy's CNR concerning the synthesis of vanillic acid from ferulic acid in water in one-pot with no other reactants besides air and bismuth tungstate in catalytic amount.

Professor Giuseppe Marcý, from the very same Group, discussed the role of the support in the photocatalytic activity of supported and entrapped Keggin heteropolyacid PW12 in the dehydration of 2-propanol at atmospheric pressure and 80 ░C. Irradiance increased significantly the dehydration reaction rate, while the use of titania as support significantly enhanced the heteropolyacid activity.

Mangesh Ramesh Avhad, PhD student at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo, presented the results of glycerol-activated CaO catalysis for biodiesel syntheis from crude Jatropha Curcas oil, in the context of work on second generation biofuels from non edible biomass resources.

Press coverage

Towards FineCat 2017

The 6th edition of FineCat will be held in Sicily on April 5-6, 2017. 

Further information

Dr M. Pagliaro ( - Prof. L. Palmisano (

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