Disclosed herein is a catalytic method of converting alkenes to epoxides. This method generally includes reacting alkenes with oxygen in the presence of a specific silver catalyst under conditions suitable to produce a yield of the epoxides. The specific silver catalyst is a silver nanocrystal having a plurality of surface planes, a substantial portion of which is defined by Miller indices of (100). The reaction is performed by charging a suitable reactor with this silver catalyst and then feeding the reactants to the reactor under conditions to carry out the reaction. The reaction may be performed in batch, or as a continuous process that employs a recycle of any unreacted alkenes. The specific silver catalyst has unexpectedly high selectivity for epoxide products. Consequently, this general method (and its various embodiments) will result in extraordinarily high epoxide yields heretofore unattainable.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENTAL INTEREST
This invention was made with government support under grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (FG-02-05ER15686), and the National Science Foundation (CTS 0543067). The government has certain rights in the invention.