The present invention is a process for the catalytic hydrogenation of ketones and aldehydes to alcohols at low temperatures and pressures using organometallic molybdenum and tungsten complexes and the catalyst used in the process. The reactants include a functional group which is selected from groups represented by the formulas R*(C.dbd.O)R' and R*(C.dbd.O)H, wherein R* and R' are selected from hydrogen or any alkyl or aryl group. The process includes reacting the organic compound in the presence of hydrogen and a catalyst to form a reaction mixture. The catalyst is prepared by reacting Ph.sub.3 C.sup.+ A.sup.- with a metal hydride. A.sup.- represents an anion and can be BF.sub.4.sup.-, PF.sub.6.sup.-, CF.sub.3 SO.sub.3.sup.- or Bar'.sub.4.sup.-, wherein Ar'=3,5-bis(trifluoromethyl)phenyl. The metal hydride is represented by the formula: HM(CO).sub.2 [.eta..sup.5 :.eta..sup.1 --C.sub.5 H.sub.4 (XH.sub.2).sub.n PR.sub.2 ] wherein M represents a molybdenum (Mo) atom or a tungsten (W) atom; X is a carbon atom, a silicon atom or a combination of carbon (C) and silicon (Si) atoms; n is any positive integer; R represents two hydrocarbon groups selected from H, an aryl group and an alkyl group, wherein both R groups can be the same or different. The metal hydride is reacted with Ph.sub.3 C.sup.+ A.sup.- either before reacting with the organic compound or in the reaction mixture.
GOVERNMENT RIGHTS IN THE INVENTION
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC02-98CH 10886, between the U.S. Department of Energy and Brookhaven Science Associates. The Government has certain rights in the invention.