Imitating Earth’s Natural Reactions Could Decrease the Need for Solvents in Synthetic Chemistry Labs

Chem Industry News

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Nature provides examples of processes that can optimize synthetic chemistry practices.
Image source: Flickr user snaps11

Solvents are used in every synthetic chemistry lab, typically as a substance to dissolve solutes. Despite their ubiquity though, solvents aren’t easy to work with. They are often volatile, making them highly flammable. Solvent vapors can also accumulate on the ground, posing a flash fire hazard. Many solvents have also been found to be damaging to multiple organ systems, so handling and disposal is tightly regulated. For firms that are involved in producing large amounts of drugs or those ore processing plants that extract metals from their natural mineral deposits, thousands of gallons of solvent are needed per year. The management and disposal of these volumes of solvent can be costly and potentially dangerous. As a result, some chemists are looking for new ways around using these dangerous chemicals. Some of the methods they’re investigating aren’t exactly “new.” Rather,ea labs are designing processes that imitate Earth’s natural processes to drive synthetic chemistry reactions. Take a look at some examples of exciting research that aims to revamp synthetic chemistry processes:

Optimizing environmental conditions

The crashing of waves on the rocky shores of the West Coast combined with hot sun and organic bird poop provided a model for a system to better derive chemical products. Environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity can be optimized to support chemistry reactions in the absence of organic solvents.

Utilizing mechanochemistry to drive reactions

Milling, the process of grinding or crushing, has been used for thousands of years to extract components of minerals. Scientists are now adding a high-tech flare by using many tiny steel balls in a rapidly oscillating container. The reactions are monitored with x-rays that provide some insight into the products of the reactions.

Using minerals to drive catalysis

Minerals are often a necessary component to control synthetic chemistry reactions. However, little is known about the mechanism by which minerals influence hydrothermal organic reactivity. Researchers recently discovered that the mineral Sphalerite catalyzes the synthesis and breaking of carbon-hydrogen bonds. The groups performed the reaction under high temperature and pressure to uncover the previously unknown function of the mineral.

These research groups are exploring exciting new, safer ways to replace organic solvents within synthetic chemistry labs. Though the conditions and catalysts might change, the basic synthetic chemistry will not. Firms can benefit from synthetic chemistry features included with an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) to help streamline experimentation. An ELN provides the ability to record chemical structures and reactions designed with your preferred chemical drawing tool. These entries are fully searchable within the notebook collection. You can also perform multi-step synthesis and parallel chemistry reactions with the ELN. Integration with your existing cheminformatics applications makes it simple to transition to the new system. Productivity features like entry cloning and the ability to access frequently used protocols will also render typical notebook entry processes more efficient.

Even though scientists are investigating how to limit solvent use in synthetic chemistry labs, your scientists will still be responsible for designing efficient reactions to scale up production. Visit the Accelrys website to learn more about how the Accelrys Notebook can help meet your lab’s synthetic chemistry needs.

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