New science makes organic synthesis easier

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

New science makes organic synthesis easier

Related tags North carolina state Solvent

Chemists from the University of Texas at Arlington and North Carolina State University have documented a water-based process that could lessen industry’s dependence on solvents.

Published in the current print issue of Green Chemistry, a journal covering alternative sustainable technologies, “Organic synthesis in fluoroalcohol-water two-phase systems” by Nathaniel Weisnera and Morteza G. Khaledi describes the new process.

Both the University of Texas at Arlington and North Carolina State are renowned public research universities. So it’s little wonder that while the chemists were at work on one project, they recognized a possible solution to an unrelated issue. “We stumbled onto this reaction when we were investigating a completely different project,” ​explains Weisner in a press release.

“However, this ‘serendipitous’ research really opens up whole new opportunities to improve the environmental impact of the organic synthesis process that is the basis of so many of the products that surround us.”

What’s different

The researchers found that by using 80-90 % water with fluoroalcohol as solvent can support synthetic reactions of organic compounds, according to the UTA press release. This “even produces considerably higher yields of product than pure organic solvents.”

Beyond that, two phases form during the reaction allowing the products to be separated out of the final mixture without the use of additional solvents.

“Our new system could facilitate cheaper, safer and more efficient industrial reactions across a variety of sectors dependent on synthesis of organic compounds,” ​says Khaledi, dean of UTA’s College of Science and co-investigator on the project, in the release. “Using water as a solvent is ideal as it is benign, plentiful, cheap and not harmful to the environment.”

Sustainable processes

The synthesis process could be used across the board, in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to agrochemicals, plastics to textiles, and household chemicals to cosmetics. And with the demand for more sustainable technologies and fewer volatile solvents, it may well be widely adopted.

“This is a clear step forward towards a ‘green’ organic synthesis process and fits into UTA's strategic focus on Global Environmental Impact within the Strategic Plan 2020,” ​Khaledi says. “The organic solvent can even be recycled after the reaction, which is an additional bonus for the environment.”

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