In this paper we focus on the synthesis and use of superacids, in particular 1,1,2,2-tetrafluoroethanesulfonic acid (TFESA), and describe how these can be optimized for reactions of key industrial importance. One area of considerable interest is the field of superacid catalysis and, specifically, the development of safer and more cost-effective acid catalysts. We report a new simplified route for preparation of these acids, making these more readily available and opening up a large number of opportunities. Partially fluorinated superacids offer several advantages over the acids commonly used in catalysis (sulfuric, hydrofluoric acid and aluminium chloride): lower loadings, lower reaction temperatures (leading to increased selectivity), fewer by-products, shorter reaction times and higher throughput. TFESA and its longer chain analogs are much less volatile than triflic acid (CF3SO3H). We tested these superacids in several processes (aromatic alkylation, acylation of arenes, isomerization, oligomerization and the Fries rearrangement). These materials are excellent acid catalysts, comparable to triflic acid, and yet easier to handle. We have also prepared supported versions of these catalysts and introduced the ability to recycle.
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