Organic Molecules Made Easy

Anyone familiar with the synthesis of complex organic molecules knows that it requires a clever combination of art, guile, dumb luck, and smart science.

One of the biggest challenges is that any but the simplest of molecules requires several different chemical reactions that must proceed consecutively. Each step needs new reagents and different solvents. Also usually needed are “protecting groups” that prevent unwanted reactions from occurring, and which then must be removed. Finally, purification of product for the next step adds further complexity.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything needed to produce a molecule could be plopped into a single pot, stirred, and voila, out pops the finished product? Impossible, you say.

But not impossible to a group of Dutch chemists from the Vrije University in Amsterdam. Writing in Angewandte Chemie, Elders et al. report on an efficient one-pot reaction of up to eight different components (48: 32 [July 27, 2009], 5856–5859).

The secret lies in what the authors call “multicomponent reactions,” which produce several new chemical bonds in one operation. Although not a new idea, the latest contribution ups the stakes by simultaneously combining more than one MCR to produce quite complex reaction products.

Besides being awesomely clever, MCRs also should save on materials cost and on the chemical waste normally involved in syntheses. Score another victory for green chemistry!

Posted In: Education | Technology

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