One-Pot Bioelectrocatalytic Conversion of Chemically Inert Hydrocarbons to Imines

Hui Chen, Tianhua Tang, Christian A. Malapit, Yoo Seok Lee, Matthew B. Prater, N. Samali Weliwatte, Shelley D. Minteer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Petroleum hydrocarbons are our major energy source and an important feedstock for the chemical industry. With the exception of combustion, the deep conversion of chemically inert hydrocarbons to more valuable chemicals is of considerable interest. However, two challenges hinder this conversion. One is the regioselective activation of inert carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds. The other is designing a pathway to realize this complicated conversion. In response to the two challenges, a multistep bioelectrocatalytic system was developed to realize the one-pot deep conversion from heptane to N-heptylhepan-1-imine under mild conditions. First, in this enzymatic cascade, a bioelectrocatalytic C-H bond oxyfunctionalization step based on alkane hydroxylase (alkB) was applied to regioselectively convert heptane to 1-heptanol. By integrating subsequent alcohol oxidation and bioelectrocatalytic reductive amination steps based on an engineered choline oxidase (AcCO6) and a reductive aminase (NfRedAm), the generated 1-heptanol was successfully converted to N-heptylhepan-1-imine. The electrochemical architecture provided sufficient electrons to drive the bioelectrocatalytic C-H bond oxyfunctionalization and reductive amination steps with neutral red (NR) as electron mediator. The highest concentration of N-heptylhepan-1-imine achieved was 0.67 mM with a Faradaic efficiency of 45% for C-H bond oxyfunctionalization and 70% for reductive amination. Hexane, octane, and ethylbenzene were also successfully converted to the corresponding imines. Via regioselective C-H bond oxyfunctionalization, intermediate oxidation, and reductive amination, the bioelectrocatalytic hydrocarbon deep conversion system successfully realized the challenging conversion from inert hydrocarbons to imines that would have been impossible by using organic synthesis methods and provided a new methodology for the comprehensive conversion and utilization of inert hydrocarbons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4047-4056
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 9 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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