Nickel catalysis plays a central role in many synthetic transformations ranging from cross coupling reactions in which carbon-carbon bonds are formed to the reduction of electron rich carbon bonds with raney nickel catalysts. Sigma-Aldrich provides an extensive suite of such nickel catalysts. Nickel-based catalytic systems are used in the production of many industrial and consumer products, and play a key role in organic synthesis.
Hydrogenation, vegetable oils are reacted with hydrogen gas at about 60ºC. A nickel catalyst is used to speed up the reaction. The double bonds are converted to single bonds in the reaction. In this way unsaturated fats can be made into saturated fats – they are hardened.
Hydrogenation of fats and oils is a very important operation in the industrial process of producing vegetable tallow, vegetable fats, margarines, and starting components for the cosmetic and chemical industry such as emulsifiers, soaps, creams, pastes, and similar substances. There are two main reasons why hydrogenation is important to the industry. The first is increasing the stability of the oil. Highly unsaturated oil is susceptible to autoxidation, thermal decomposition, and other reactions that affect the flavor. Consequently, it is desired to partially hydrogenate the oil to improve shelf life. The second reason to partially hydrogenate vegetable oil is to improve its utility. For most products, such as shortenings, margarines, or confectionery fats, the desired softening and melting characteristics correspond to oils that are partially hydrogenated. The choice of catalyst to use for hydrogenation greatly affects the properties of the final product.