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Title:
PROCESS FOR THE PREPARATION OF TETRAALKYL 1,2,3,4-BUTANETETRACARBOXYLATES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1997/025452
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Electrolytic hydrodimeric coupling of dialkyl maleates in alkanol solutions containing an alkanol-soluble alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate mixed supporting electrolyte yields tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4-butanetetracarboxylates.

Inventors:
Bagley, Melvin R.
Dutton, Monica C.
Kalota, Dennis J.
Application Number:
PCT/US1997/000400
Publication Date:
July 17, 1997
Filing Date:
January 10, 1997
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MONSANTO COMPANY BAGLEY, Melvin, R
Dutton, Monica C.
Kalota, Dennis J.
International Classes:
C07C69/34; C07C55/00; C25B3/10; (IPC1-7): C25B3/10; C07C51/09
Other References:
No further relevant documents disclosed
See also references of EP 0873433A1
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Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. A process for the preparation of tetraalkyl 1, 2, 3, 4butanetetracarboxylate, which pro¬ cess comprises subjecting a substantially anhydrous liquid electrolysis medium containing a dialkyi male¬ ate, an alkanol corresponding to the alkyl groups of the dialkyi maleate, and an alkanolsoluble alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate supporting electrolyte to electrolysis in an electrol ysis cell, using a graphite anode and a graphite cath¬ ode, to effect electrohydrodimerization of the dialkyi maleate to yield the tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4 butanetetracarboxylate .
2. The process of Claim 1 wherein the dialkyi maleate is present in the electrolysis medium in an initial concentration of from about 5% by weight up to greater than 50% by weight.
3. The process of Claim 2 wherein the initial concentration of the dialkyi maleate in the electroly sis medium is at least about 15% by weight.
4. The process of Claim 3 wherein the initial concentration of the dialkyi maleate in the electroly¬ sis medium is from about 15% by weight up to about 40% by weight .
5. The process of Claim 1 wherein the dialkyi maleate is dimethyl maleate, the alkanol is methanol, and the tetraalkyl 1 , 2, 3, 4butanetetracarboxylate is tetramethyl 1,2,3, butanetetracarboxylate .
6. The process of Claim 1 wherein the alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate supporting electrolyte is sodium methoxide/tetrabutylammonium tetrafluoroborate .
7. The process of Claim 1 wherein the alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate supporting electrolyte mol ratio is between about 0.5/1 and about 5/1. θ.
8. The process of Claim 7 wherein the alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate supporting electrolyte mol ratio is about 1/1.
9. The process of Claim 1 wherein the sup porting electrolyte is present in the electrolysis medium at a concentration of from about 0.5% by weight to about 5.0% by weight.
10. The process of Claim 9 wherein the concen¬ tration of the supporting electrolyte in the electrol ysis medium is from about 1.0% by weight percent to about 3.5% by weight.
11. The process of Claim 1 wherein the elec¬ trolysis is conducted at a temperature less than the boiling point of the alkanol.
12. The process of Claim 11 wherein the tem¬ perature is from about 15 °C to about 50 °C.
13. The process of Claim 12 wherein the tem¬ perature is from about 20 °C to about 40 °C.
14. The process of Claim 1 wherein the elec trolysis is continued until at least about 75% of the dialkyi maleate has reacted.
15. The process of Claim 1 wherein the elec¬ trolysis is conducted at current densities of at least about 15 mA/cm2.
16. The process of Claim 15 wherein the cur¬ rent densities are in the range from about 15 mA/cm2 to about 100 mA/cm2.
17. The process of Claim 1 wherein the tetraalkyl 1,2, 3 , butanetetracarboxylate is recovered from the electrolysis medium by cooling to induce crystallization, followed by separation.
18. The process of Claim 17 wherein the sepa¬ ration is effected by a technique selected from the group consisting of filtration and centrifugation.
19. The process of Claim 18 wherein the sepa¬ ration is effected by filtration.
Description:
PROCESS FOR THE PREPARATION OF TETRAALKYT. 1.2.3.4-BϋTANETETRACARBOXYLATES

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention This invention relates to an electrolytic pro¬ cess for the preparation of tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylates from dialkyi maieates. The products are useful as precursors of the corresponding free acid, 1, 2, 3, 4-butanetetracarboxylic acid. Con- version of the tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylates into the corresponding free acid can be effected as described and claimed in com¬ monly assigned U.S. Patent No. 5,298,653. This refer¬ ence is herein incorporated by reference. The corresponding free acid, 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylic acid, has been found by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be an effective permanent press agent for polyester-cotton blend fabrics, and could find use in large quantities for such purpose. Accordingly, an efficient process for the preparation of the free acid is deemed highly desirable and use¬ ful. A requirement of any such process, however, is that it must produce a product exhibiting acceptable color performance properties, as this is a critical factor for suitability for permanent press agents.

2. Description of the Rela ed Art

Electrolytic reductive couplings of various activated olefins have been investigated and reported in the art. Much of this work involved aqueous sys- terns in a divided cell, and often with a supporting electrolyte salt with a very negative discharge poten¬ tial, such as a quaternary ammonium salt. In addi¬ tion, however, to the desired reductive coupling reac¬ tion, other undesired side reactions such as, for example, simple reduction and polymerization frequent¬ ly occur. Various parameters of such reactions have

been discussed, including the use of various support¬ ing electrolytes. See Organic Ele rrochemisrry. 2nd ed, Baizer and Lund, Ed., Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1983. At page 669 of this reference, for example, it is stated that undivided cells are opera¬ ble with the restrictions that (i) the olefin and reaction product not be substantially oxidized at the anode, and (ii) the oxygen evolved at the anode in aqueous systems not promote undesirable side reac- tions. In addition, at pages 669 and 672, reference is made to di erization of diethyl maleate and the effect of alkali metal cations in increasing the rate of dimerization of anion radicals.

Electrolytic hydrodi erization, also referred to as electrohydrodimerization, of diethyl maleate has been reported by Baizer et al, Journal of thp Electro¬ chemical Society. 111(10), 1024-1025 (1967) . In ac¬ cordance with the described procedures, the electroly¬ ses were carried out using a catholyte of water and dimethylformamide in a divided electrolysis cell. The reference further indicated that, all other conditions being equal, more hydrodimerization occurs in the presence of tetraethylammonium ion than of sodium ion. The electrolyses were carried out for three (3) hours, generally resulting in about 50% conversions, and specified amounts of hydrodimer, and other products.

Methanol has been employed as a solvent for the study of reduction mechanisms. In Sazou et al, Col - lections of Czechoslovakia Chemica] Communications. __., 2132-2141 (1957) , cyclic voltammograms of dilute methanol solutions -- for example, 0.0025 or 0.005 mole/liter -- of maleic acid and fumaric acid with various supporting electrolytes, employing a hanging mercury electrode, are presented, and reduction mecha- nisms discussed. The reference postulates that the double bond reduction of the corresponding dimethyl

esters of maleic acid and fumaric acid occurs in one step.

Electrohydimerization of dialkyi maieates is known in the art. In U.S. Patent No. 5,244,546, a process is described for the electrolytic reductive coupling of dialkyi maieates to yield tetraalkyl 1, 2, 3 ,4-butanetetracarboxylates. In accordance with the process, the electrohydrodimerization is carried out by subjecting an electrolysis medium comprising a substantial concentration of the dialkyi maleate in a substantially anhydrous alkanol, and a supporting electrolyte to electrolysis in an undivided electroly¬ sis cell. The reaction reportedly results in good yields of tetraalkyl 1, 2 , 3, 4-butanetetracarboxylates . In many instances, however, particularly in a commercial scale process, a small percent increase in the yield of the desired product, relative to known processes, represents a tremendous economic advantage. Accordingly, research efforts are continually being made to define new or improved processes for preparing new and old desired products. The discovery of the process of the instant invention, therefore, is be¬ lieved to constitute a decided advance in the electrohydrodimerization art. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The instant invention is directed to an electro¬ lytic hydrodimerization preparative process for tetraalkyl 1,2, , 4-butanetetracarboxylates . Accord¬ ingly, the primary object of the instant invention is to provide an improved electrohydrodimerization pro¬ cess for the electrolytic hydrodimeric coupling of dialkyi maieates in an alkanol-containing liquid elec¬ trolysis medium.

This and other objects, aspects, and advantages of the instant invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the accompanying description and claims.

The above objects are achieved by the process of the instant invention which comprises subjecting a substantially anhydrous liquid electrolysis medium containing a dialkyi maleate, an alkanol-soluble alka- li metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate mixed supporting electrolyte to electrolysis in an electrolysis cell fitted with a graphite anode and a graphite cathode to effect electrohydrodimerization of the dialkyi maleate to yield the corresponding tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate.

The tetraalkyl 1, 2, 3, -butanetetracarboxylates obtained in the process of the instant invention can be readily recovered by any of a number of convention- al and well-known recovery procedures known in the art. Worthy of particular note are procedures de¬ scribed in commonly assigned U.S. Patent No. 5,248,396, which reference is herein incorporated by reference . DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Electrolytic hydrodimeric coupling of dialkyi maieates in alkanol solutions containing an alkanol- soluble alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate mixed supporting electrolyte pro- vides excellent selectivities to, and yields of, tetraalkyl 1,2, 3 , 4-butanetetracarboxylates . In accor¬ dance therewith, an electric current is passed through a substantially anhydrous liquid electrolysis medium containing the dialkyi maleate, an alkanol correspond- ing to the alkyl groups of the dialkyi maleate, and an alkanol-soluble alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammo¬ nium tetrafluoroborate mixed supporting electrolyte contained in an electrolysis cell fitted with a graph¬ ite anode and a graphite cathode to cause hydrodimeric coupling of the dialkyi maleate to yield the corre¬ sponding tetraalkyl 1, 2, 3, 4-butanetetracarboxylate . The process generally involves use of a liquid elec-

trolysis medium having a very substantial concentra¬ tion of the dialkyi maleate reactant and use of fairly substantial electrical current in the electrolysis, and obtaining substantial amounts of the corresponding tetraalkyl 1, 2, 3 ,4-butanetetracarboxylate product in a reasonable reaction time.

The process of the instant invention can be conducted with dialkyi maieates in general. But, for practical considerations, only the dialkyi maieates wherein the alkyl groups of the ester functionalities are lower alkyl groups, for example, alkyl groups of 1 to 6 carbon atoms, are likely to be of significant interest. In addition, it will be noted that since there are two alkyl groups contained in the ester functionalities of the dialkyi maieates, the alkyl groups can be the same or different. But, again for practical considerations, it is preferred that both such alkyl group be the same. In such manner, the choice of a suitable alkanol solvent is resolved with- out undue additional considerations.

Among the dialkyi maieates, dimethyl maleate is the preferred reactant, and is used herein to exempli¬ fy the process of the instant invention. However, diethyl maleate, di-n-propyl maleate, diisopropyl maleate, di-n-butyl (and isomers thereof) maleate, di- n-pentyl (and isomers thereof) maleate, and di-n-hexyl (and isomers thereof) maleate are also suitable for use in the process of the instant invention. It is recognized, however, that electrical resistance tends to increase with increasing alkyl size, whether in the ester or in the alkanol solvent, thereby making elec¬ trical power usage less efficient. A further disad¬ vantage of high molecular weight alkanols is that they tend to be solids at ambient temperatures, thereby requiring elevated temperatures to provide a liquid electrolysis medium.

The term "and isomers thereof" following the names of various alkyl groups of the ester functional¬ ities of the dialkyi maieates is employed herein to designate the isomers of the preceding alkyl group. For example, "and isomers thereof" following "di-n- butyl" designates isomeric butyl groups (other than the expressly named n-butyl) , such as isobutyl , sec- butyl, and tert-butyl. Thus, the term "di-n-butyl (and isomers thereof) maleate" designates di-n-butyl maleate, diisobutyl maleate, di-sec-butyl maleate, and di-tert-butyl maleate.

Alkanols suitable for use in the process of the instant invention are those which contain an alkyl group corresponding to the alkyl group of the dialkyi maleate. This requirement avoids the difficulty asso¬ ciated with ester interchange with the dialkyi maieates. For practical reasons, however, as with the dialkyi maieates, only alkanols wherein the alkyl group is a lower alkyl group, for example, alkyl groups of 1 to 6 carbon atoms, are likely to be of significant interest. Exemplary of suitable alkanols are methanol, ethanol, 1-propanol, 2-propanol (isopro¬ pyl alcohol) , 1-butanol, 2-butanol (sec-butyl alco¬ hol) , 2-methyl-1-propanol (isobutyl alcohol) , 2-meth- yl-2-propanol (tert-butyl alcohol) , 1-pentanol, 2- pentanol (sec-amyl alcohol) , 3-pentanol, 3-methyl-l- butanol, 3-methyl-2-butanol, 2-methyl-2-butanol , 2,2- dιmethyl-1-propanol , and the like. Among these alco¬ hols, methanol is generally preferred in that it (a) has the highest dielectric constant of the simple alcohols, (b) is the least expensive of the simple alcohols, (c) gives higher current efficiencies than do the higher simple alcohols, (d) is a liquid at ambient temperatures and thereby readily provides a liquid electrolysis medium, (f) facilitates the use of dimethyl maleate as the dialkyi maleate of choice, and (f) is relatively easily separated from the desired

tetraalkyl 1, 2 , 3 ,4-butanetetracarboxylate product, tetramethyl 1,2,3, -butanetetracarboxylate .

As previously noted in the Background of the Invention, an important use for tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylates involves its conversion to 1, 2, 3, 4-butanetetracarboxylic acid, which, in turn, finds utility as an effective permanent press agent for polyester-cotton blend fabrics. For this purpose, the simplest ester, tetramethyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate, serves very well and is gener¬ ally preferred. As a result, there will ordinarily be no reason to choose other tetraalkyl esters as inter¬ mediates for the same product .

While not desiring to be bound by the theory of the instant invention, or to limit the invention in any way, it is believed that Reactions (1) , (2) , and (3) show the reactions involved, the reaction of di¬ methyl maleate in methanol to prepare tetramethyl 1, 2 , 3 , 4-butanetetracarboxylate being used for purposes of illustration.

(1) Cathode Reaction: O 0

2CH 3 -0-C-CH=CH-C-0-CH 3 + 2e " + 2H * -

0 0

o 0

(2) Anode Reaction:

2CH 3 OH - 2e _ - 2H * + CH 3 OCH 2 OH

(3) Sum of Reactions (1) and (2) : 0 0

2CH 3 -0-C-CH=CH-C-0-CH 3 + 2CH 3 OH -

0 0

CH, - -0- - C- CH - • CH- C - 0- - CH 3 + CH,OCH = OH 1 1

1 1

CH 3 - -0- C- CH CH - - C- 0- - CH 3

Methoxymethanol, the presumed reaction product at the anode, is the hemiacetal of formaldehyde. The presence of formaldehyde in the product mixture has been confirmed, but it may be formed by the disassoci- ation of methoxymethanol. Additional possible inter¬ mediates include * CH 2 0H and * CH 2 0H in the anode reac- tion, and methanol from protons and methoxide ion

(employed as a component of the supporting electro¬ lyte) . Also, alkoxides, e.g., methoxide (CH,0 " or MeO ' ) , can be produced from reaction of alkanol, e.g., CH 3 0H or MeOH, at the cathode. The presence of * CH 2 0H as a likely intermediate at the anode presents the possibility for the addition of such intermediate at the double bond of the dialkyi maleate to cause production of undesired by-products, thereby possibly causing considerable loss in selec- tivity to the desired hydrodimer, tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate, particularly when an undivided electrolysis cell is used. However, such undesired side reaction does not occur to any significant and/or substantial extent in that good results, i.e., good selectivities and yields of the desired hydrodimer, are obtained in the preferred undivided electrolysis cell. In fact, it is believed that the use of an undivided electrolysis cell is advantageous, as it permits protons generated at the anode to move very freely throughout the electrolysis medium to protonate alkoxide, e.g., methoxide, ions generated in conjunc¬ tion with the hydrodimerization at the cathode, there¬ by avoiding possible interfering reactions of the alkoxide ions and polymerization.

In accordance with the process of the instant invention it has been discovered that electrolytic hydrodimerization reaction is carried out effectively and efficiently with a mixed supporting electrolyte. Indeed, it has been discovered that the employment of the mixed supporting electrolyte in accordance with the process of the instant invention results in unex¬ pectedly high selectivities to, and yields of, the desired hydrodimer, tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate.

It will be apparent to those having ordinary skill in the art that the alkanol-based electrolysis medium must have sufficient conductivity to conduct the required electric current. And although media of less than ideal conductivity can be employed, it is preferred from an economic viewpoint not to have too high a resistance, thereby avoiding substantial inef¬ ficiencies in electric current usage. Having in mind the desire to minimize inefficiencies in electric usage, the conductivity of the electrolysis medium is enhanced by the addition of suitable supporting elec¬ trolytes, e.g., electrolyte salts having sufficiently high discharge potentials, to the alkanol-based elec¬ trolysis medium. The term "supporting electrolyte" is employed herein to mean an electrolyte capable of carrying electric current but not discharging under electroly¬ sis conditions. It will be recognized, however, that discharge potentials will vary with electrode materi- als and their surface conditions and various materials in the electrolysis medium.

The term "salt" is employed in its generally recognized sense to mean a compound composed of a cation and an anion, e.g., the reaction product of an acid and a base.

An alkanol-soluble mixed supporting electrolyte is employed in the process of the instant invention to

enhance the conductivity of the electrolysis medium. In accordance with the present process, the mixed supporting electrolyte comprises an alkali metal alkoxide and a quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate. The alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate mol ratio is between about 0.5/1 to about 5/1, with a mol ratio of about 1/1 being pre¬ ferred.

Among the alkali metal alkoxides, suitable cations include lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium, and cesium, with lithium, sodium, and potassium being preferred, and sodium generally being most preferred. Suitable alkoxide anions include those containing lower alkyl groups, for example, alkyl groups of 1-6 carbon atoms. Exemplary of the alkoxide anions are methoxide, ethoxide, n-propoxide, isopropoxide, n- butoxide (and isomers thereof) , n-pentoxide (and iso¬ mers thereof) , and n-hexoxide (and isomers thereof) . As a practical matter, however, it is preferred to employ an alkoxide anion which corresponds to the alkanol solvent.

In the manner noted in connection with the term "and isomers thereof" following the names of various alkyl groups of the ester functionalities of the dialkyi maieates, the term "and isomers thereof" fol¬ lowing the names z t various alkoxide anions of the alkali metal alkoxide supporting electrolyte is em¬ ployed herein to designate the isomers of the preced¬ ing alkoxide anion. For example, "and isomers there- of" following "n-butoxide" designates isomeric butoxide anions (other than the expressly named n- butoxide) , such as isobutoxide, sec-butoxide, and ter -butoxide. Thus, the term "n-butoxide (and iso¬ mers thereof)" designates n-butoxide, isobutoxide, sec-butoxide, and tert-butoxide.

Non-limiting examples of suitable quaternary ammonium cations of the quaternary ammonium

tetrafluoroborates include the tetraalkylammonium cations, e.g., tetramethylammonium, tetraethylammoni¬ um, tetra-n-propylammonium, tetraisopropylammonium, tetra-n-butylammonium, tetraisobutylammoniuum, tetra- tert-butylammonium, and the like, heterocyclic and alkylarylammonium cations, e.g., phenyltriethylammonium and the like, with the tetraalkylammonium cations being generally preferred in that the quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborates exhibit good solubility and conductivity m the elec¬ trolysis medium and are difficultly reduced.

The term "quaternary ammonium" is employed in its generally recognized sense to mean a cation having four organic groups substituted on the nitrogen. In accordance with the process of the instant invention, the electrolysis is carried out over a broad range of electrolysis conditions, including a wide range of strengths of applied electric currents and current densities at the electrodes. The process is operable at very low current densities, such as less than 5 milliamperes per square centimeter (mA/cm 2 ) to more than 100 or 200 mA/cm 2 . In general, it will be recognized that high current densities are advanta¬ geously employed in order to maximize electrolysis cell utilization. At the same time, however, this factor favoring high current densities must be bal¬ anced against the resultant high electrolysis cell voltage and resistance and heat generation which, in turn, add to costs. Preferred current densities will generally be in the range of from about 15 mA/cm 2 to about 50 mA/cm 2 , with current densities of from about 20 mA/cm 2 to about 25 mA/cm 2 being most preferred. The process of the instant invention can be carried out over a broad range of concentrations for the components of the electrolysis medium. The con¬ centration of the dialkyi maleate, for example, is not narrowly critical; it is limited only by the solubili-

ty of the dialkyi maleate m the alkanol of the elec¬ trolysis medium. It is recognized, however, that the electrical resistance of the electrolysis medium tends to increase with increasing concentrations of compo- nents contained in the electrolysis medium. Thus, concentrations of dialkyi maleate from less than about 5% by weight to more than 50% by weight are suitable and result in high selectivities to, and yields of, the desired hydrodimeric product, tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate. Preferred concentrations of dialkyi maleate, however, are from at least about 15% by weight to about 40% by weight of the electrolysis medium. Concentrations in the same range of the re¬ sultant hydrodimeric product (upon completion of the electrolytic hydrodimeric coupling reaction) also are su taole and preferred.

The concentration of the mixed supporting elec¬ trolyte is not narrowly critical and can vary to a substantial degree. Usually, however, it is unneces- sary to have more than dilute concentrations for con¬ ductivity. Higher concentrations will improve conduc¬ tivity, but supporting electrolytes of the type suit¬ able for use in the process of the instant invention, m general , are not very soluble in alkanols of the type suitable for use in the process of the instant invention. And there is no advantage in employing amounts of supporting electrolytes in excess of their solubility in the alkanol of choice. Suitable concen¬ trations of the mixed supporting electrolyte will often be in the range of from about 0.5% by weight to about 5% by weight of the electrolysis medium, prefer¬ ably from about 1.0% by weight to about 3.5% by weight, all at the previously noted alkali metal alkoxide/quaternary ammonium tetrafluoroborate mol ratio of from about 0.5/1 to about 5/1.

The indicated concentration ranges for the dialkyi maleate reactant are, n general, initial

concentrations, as the concentration will change dur¬ ing the electrolysis process, which will generally oe conducted as a batch reaction, or a series of batch reactions, although the process is not limited only to such batch reaction (s) and can be conducted m a con¬ tinuous mode.

A continuous mode of operation can involve recirculation of a flowing electrolyte stream between the electrodes, with continuous or intermittent sa - plmg of the stream for product removal. At the same time, the electrolysis medium can be augmented by repler.isnmg depleted components continuously or in¬ termittently, as appropriate, to maintain the αesired concentrations of such components. The electrolysis reaction will ordinarily be conducted at fairly high conversions, e.g., greater tnan 75% conversion of the dialkyi maleate because selectivity to the desired hydrodimeric product is very good at high conversions. In addition, hign conversions avoid unnecessary steps, handling, and expense in separating unreacted dialkyi maleate from the hydrodimeric product for recycle. In a preferred embodiment, the electrolysis is conducted at a dialkyi maleate conversion of about 90% conversion or higher It has been found, however, that continued electroly¬ sis with little cr no dialkyi maleate being present in the electrolysis medium results in increased electrode degradation.

It will be noted that undesired side reactions can occur. For example, it has been found that there is a competing chemical side reaction which produces dimethyl 2-methoxysuccιnate [or simply dimethyl methoxysuccmate (MeODMS) ] The extent of the occur¬ rence of this reaction, in general, is dependent upon tne time of exposure of the dialkyi maleate reactant tc the components of the electrolysis medium or reac¬ tion system. As such, it may be desirable tc conduct

the electrolysis as a series of batch reactions, with a relatively low initial dialkyi maleate concentration and addition of additional dialkyi maleate in subse¬ quent batches of the series. In such a series of batch reactions, the last batch could then be taken to high conversion prior to product separation. Another approach to minimizing dialkyi maleate contact t me is to use an electrolysis cell which is large, particu¬ larly with respect to electrode surface area, compared to the amount of material in the reaction system and dialkyi maleate reactant. Still another approacr. is to employ a constant stirred tank reactor with a con¬ tinuous feed and discharge where the dialkyi maleate concentration is maintained low to diminish the chetni- cal driving force for the undesired competing chemical side reaction.

The control of reaction time can be expressed :r. terms of electrical current supply. The conversion of a particular amount of dialkyi maleate reactant requires a corresponding number of ampere-hours (A-hr) of current, and the time to accumulate a requisite number of A-hr m an electrolysis can be varied by changing the current and/or the number or size of the electrolysis cell(s) . With the foregoing in mind, it will be apparent to one having ordinary skill in the art that if the same electric current is involved, a multiple-cell, e.g., 16-cell, aggregate will accumu¬ late A-hr at a rate equivalent to a corresponding multiple of a lesser cell aggregate. For example, a 16-cell aggregate will accumulate A-hr at a rate twice that of an eight (8) -cell aggregate. At the same time, it is recognized that the greater the number of electrolysis cells contained in the multiple-cell aggregate, the higher will be the voltage required to attain equivalent current.

The particular type of electrolysis cell em¬ ployed in the process of the instant invention is not

critical. The electrolysis cell can consist of a glass container having one or more anodes and cathodes connected to a source of direct electrical current. The electrolysis cell also can consist of the two electrodes separated by an insulator such as a rubner or other non-conducting gasket or spacer. In such an electrolysis cell, which is conveniently described as a "sandwich-type" electrolysis cell, the electrolysis medium is preferably flowed past the (two) parallel electrodes (cathode and anode) in a recirculating system. Such an arrangement allows large volumes of the electrolysis medium to be effectively sub ected to electrolysis in a relatively small electrolysis cell having preferred closely-spaced electrode surfaces Electrolysis cells for large scale production are contemplated as using at least 5 A, and oftentimes IC cr more A. Taking into consideration tne amperage and number of electrolysis cells employed, tne instant process will ordinarily use current and dialkyi male- ate amounts sucr. that no more than 100 grams (g> of dialkyi maleate are present per cell-A, and preferably less than 50 g, or possibly even less than 25 g

The terir "cell-ampere" (cell-A) is employed herein to mean tne numner of cells x amperes, and is equivalent to ampere-hours per hour [ (A-hr) /hr]

The electrolytic process of the instant inven¬ tion is effected using graphite (plate, felt, rods, fibers, and the like) electrodes, i.e., both cathode and anode, with graphite plate and felt being particu- larly advantageous for flow-through sandwich-type electrolysis cell configurations. Additional advan¬ tages which are realized from the use of graphite as tne electrodes of cnoice includes high conversions of the dialkyi maleate reactant, as well as h gh selectivities tc, and high yields of, the desired hydrodimeric coupled product, tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate . Moreover, graphite is muc

less expensive than many other known and commonly used electrode materials, such as platinum or even lead or cadmium electrodes and it does not add heavy metals to the electrolysis medium via corrosion. The temperature at which the process of the instant invention is conducted is not narrowly criti¬ cal. However, it may be desirable to avoid excessive¬ ly high or elevated temperatures in that increased production of undesirable by-products may result. Also, it may be desirable to avoid elevated tempera¬ tures when a volatile alkanol, e.g., methanol, is employed as a solvent in the electrolysis medium in order to avoid loss of such materials, and various cooling means can be used for this purpose. Cooling to ambient temperatures is generally sufficient, but, if desired, temperatures down to 0 °C or lower can be employed so long as the desired hydrodimeric coupling reaction occurs with reasonable efficiency. For con¬ venience, temperatures in the range from about 0 C C to a temperature not to exceed the boiling point of the alkanol employed as the solvent m the electrolysis medium. For example, when methanol is the alkancl of cnoice, a convenient maximum temperature is about 60 C C. In general, however, temperatures of from about 15 °C to aoout 50 C C are preferred, with temperatures of from about 20 °C to about 40 °C being most preferred.

The process of the instant invention can be conducted at atmospheric pressure, superatmospheric pressures, and subatmospheric pressures. However, for practical reasons and reasons of economy and construc¬ tion of equipment, it is preferred to conduct the instant process at approximately atmospheric pressure.

The process of the instant invention can be carried out effectively and efficiently with an alkanol, e.g , methanol, as the only material employed as carrier for the dialkyi maleate reactant and mixed supporting electrolyte. Ordinary industrial grades of

the alkanol of choice which are substantially water- free, are very suitable for use. Traces of water picked up from contact with the atmosphere will not ordinarily be sufficient to adversely affect results. For example, 2000 parts per million (ppm) of water in the electrolysis medium has negligible effect. How¬ ever, the presence of more than traces of water will preferably be avoided, as even a small percentage of water can cause a decline in selectivity, and the presence of more than, say 5% by weight, of water is very undesirable. If desired, co-solvents can be employed along with the alkanol, particularly such aprotic solvents as dimethylformamide, dimethyl sulf- oxi e, acetonitrile, and mixtures thereof. It is noted, however, that the use of co-solvents generally will not be desirable, although there may be particu¬ lar circumstances where solubility or other factors would make the use of co-solvents worthwhile and advantageous . Upon completion of the electrolysis, the tetraalkyl 1, 2, 3 , 4-butanetetracarboxylate product is present in solution in the electrolysis medium, e.g., at a concentration of about 25% by weight . Recovery of the tetraalkyl 1, 2 , 3 , 4-butanetetracarboxylate from the electrolysis medium is effected by cooling the resultant reaction mixture to induce as complete crys¬ tallization as possible of the tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxylate product, followed by separation by techniques well known in the art, e.g., filtration, centrifugation, and the like. In the case of tetramethyl 1, 2 , 3 , 4-butanetetracarboxylate, the crys¬ tallization is effected by cooling the resultant reac¬ tion mixture, e.g., to less than 0 °C, usually between about 0 °C and -10 °C. The precipitated crystals are separated from the supernatant liquid by filtration, washed, preferably with the alkanol of choice employed as the solvent for the electrolysis medium, and dried.

Recrystallization, if desired, can be effected from a suitable solvent, e.g., the same alkanol of cnoice .

The separation of the tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarooxylate product from the resultan t reaction mixture effectively separates the product from residual dialkyi maleate reactant and undesirable by-products, e.g., dialkyi succinate and dialkyi 2- alkcxysuccmate .

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that since the desired tetraalkyl 1,2,3,4- butanetetracarboxyiate is a tetraester, it can be subjected to hydrolysis and purification procedures to prepare the corresponding 1, 2, 3, 4-butanetetracarbox- ylic acid suitable for permanent press use, as de- scribed and claimed in commonly assigned U.S. Patent No. 5,298,653, wmch reference, as previously noted, is herein incorporated by reference.

The following specific examples illustrating tne best currently-known mode of practicing the instant invention are described in detail in order to facili¬ tate a clear understanding of the invention. It should be understood, however, that the detailed expo¬ sitions of the application of the invention, wnile indicating preferred embodiments, are given by way of illustration only and are not to be construed as lim¬ iting the invention since various changes and modifi¬ cations within the spirit of the invention will become apparent to those skilled m the art from this de¬ tailed description. EXAMPLE 1

Electrolyses were conducted in a sandwich- ype undivided electrolysis flow cell of parallel plate design fitted w tn graphite plate electrodes, both cathode and anode, having a surface area for each electrode of 114.75 cm 2 , and with a gap between the electrodes of anout 1 millimeter (mm) . The electroly ¬ sis cell fluid volume capacity was approximately 11 5

cm- and its flow rate was approximately 0.762 me¬ ter/second [m/s; 2.5 feet/second (ft/s)] . The elec¬ trolysis cell was connected to a circulating pump and a j acketed, refrigerated reservoir maintained at about 20 °C. The chilled reservoir was charged with the desired quantities of dimethyl maleate (DMM) , metha¬ nol, and supporting electrolyte. The resultant solu¬ tion was chilled to about 20 °C and subjected to elec¬ trolysis while maintaining the temperature at the initial 20 °C. The results and parameters are tabulat¬ ed m Table 1.

In Table 1, the formulas and abbreviations employed, except as otherwise specified, represent designations as follows: Bu 4 NBF 4 is tetrabutylammonium tetrafluorooorate; and

NaOMe is sodium methoxide.

TABLE 1

ro

'Dimethyl maleate.

15 2 Payload in % by weight dimethyl maleate (DMM) in solution

'Concentration of indicated supporting electrolyte in millimoles per 100.00 g of solution.

4 Concentration of total supporting electrolyte in solution in weight % .

'Current density in milliamperes/cm 2 (mA/cm 2 ).

6 Yield in mol % normalized to 100% conversion of DMM.

20 7 Tetramethyl 1 ,2,3,4-butanetetracarboxylate.

'Dimethyl succinate.

'Dimethyl 2-methoxysuccinate; or simply dimethyl methoxysuccinate.

'"Comparative example.

Thus, it is apparent that there has been pro¬ vided, in accordance with the instant invention, a process that fully satisfies the objects and advantag¬ es set forth hereinabove . While the invention has been described with respect to various specific exam¬ ples and embodiments thereof, it is understood that the invention is not limited thereto and many alterna¬ tives, modifications, and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace ail such alternatives, modifications, and variations as fail within the spirit and broad scope of the in¬ ven ion.