The application of niobium(v) chloride and several imidazolium bromides as catalyst systems for the cycloaddition of propylene oxide (PO) with carbon dioxide to propylene carbonate (PC) is reported. A set of 31 different imidazolium bromides has been synthesized with varying substituents at all five imidazolium ring atoms, of which 17 have not been reported before. The impact of different substitution patterns (steric and electronic changes and solubility in PO) at the imidazolium ring on the catalytic activity was investigated. The optimisation of the catalyst structure allows for the valorisation of carbon dioxide under mild reaction conditions with high reaction rates in very good yield and selectivity for PC. This journal is © the Partner Organisations 2014.