Synthesis and Industrial Production
Formaldehyde was first reported in 1859 by the Russian chemist Aleksandr Butlerov (1828–86) and was conclusively identified in 1869 by August Wilhelm von Hofmann.
Formaldehyde is produced industrially by the catalytic oxidation of methanol. The most common catalysts are silver metal or a mixture of an iron and molybdenum or vanadium oxides. In the commonly used formox process, methanol and oxygen react at ca. 250–400 °C in presence of iron oxide in combination with molybdenum and/or vanadium to produce formaldehyde according to the chemical equation:
- 2 CH3OH + O2 → 2 CH2O + 2 H2O
The silver-based catalyst usually operates at a higher temperature, about 650 °C. Two chemical reactions on it simultaneously produce formaldehyde: that shown above and the dehydrogenation reaction:
- CH3OH → H2CO + H2
In principle formaldehyde could be generated by oxidation of methane, but this route is not industrially viable because the formaldehyde is more easily oxidized than methane.
Read more about this topic: Formaldehyde
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