Traditionally, a catalyst functions by direct interaction with reactants. In a new noncontact catalytic system (NCCS), an intermediate produced by one catalytic reaction serves as an intermediary to enable an independent reaction to proceed. An example is the selective oxidation of ethylbenzene, which could not occur in the presence of either solubilized Au nanoclusters or cyclooctene, but proceeded readily when both were present simultaneously. The Au-initiated selective epoxidation of cyclooctene generated cyclooctenyl peroxy and oxy radicals that served as intermediaries to initiate the ethylbenzene oxidation. This combined system effectively extended the catalytic effect of Au. The reaction mechanism was supported by reaction kinetics and spin trap experiments. NCCS enables parallel reactions to proceed without the constraints of stoichiometric relationships, offering new degrees of freedom in industrial hydrocarbon co-oxidation processes.
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