Sintered silicon carbide: a new ceramic vessel material for microwave chemistry in single-mode reactors.
Silicon carbide (SiC) is a strongly microwave absorbing chemically inert ceramic material that can be utilized at extremely high temperatures due to its high melting point and very low thermal expansion coefficient. Microwave irradiation induces a flow of electrons in the semiconducting ceramic that heats the material very efficiently through resistance heating mechanisms. The use of SiC carbide reaction vessels in combination with a single-mode microwave reactor provides an almost complete shielding of the contents inside from the electromagnetic field. Therefore, such experiments do not involve electromagnetic field effects on the chemistry, since the semiconducting ceramic vial effectively prevents microwave irradiation from penetrating the reaction mixture. The involvement of electromagnetic field effects (specific/nonthermal microwave effects) on 21 selected chemical transformations was evaluated by comparing the results obtained in microwave-transparent Pyrex vials with experiments performed in SiC vials at the same reaction temperature. For most of the 21 reactions, the outcome in terms of conversion/purity/product yields using the two different vial types was virtually identical, indicating that the electromagnetic field had no direct influence on the reaction pathway. Due to the high chemical resistance of SiC, reactions involving corrosive reagents can be performed without degradation of the vessel material.Examples include high-temperature fluorine-chlorine exchang reactions using triethylamine trihydrofluoride, and the hydrolysis of nitriles with aqueous potassium hydroxide. The unique combination of high microwave absorptivity, thermal conductivity, and effusivity on the one hand, and excellent temperature, pressure and corrosion resistance on the other hand, makes this material ideal for the fabrication of reaction vessels for use in microwave reactors.