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New modular self-assembled homogeneous catalysts for asymmetric synthesis in water

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New catalyst for chemical synthesis

EU-funded researchers have developed a new modular type of catalyst that will make the synthesis of complex chemicals (such as pharmaceuticals) cheaper and quicker.

Industrial Technologies

Catalysis is a crucial part of modern chemical synthesis. Asymmetric catalysts are especially important as they help produce enantiomers (compounds that cannot be superimposed over their mirror images, like left and right hands). The 'New modular self-assembled homogeneous catalysts for asymmetric synthesis in water' (MODUCAT) project aimed to produce a new class of modular catalysts. Researchers aimed to bond different catalysts responsible for activity and for enantio-selectivity into one catalyst that could perform both functions. Researchers first tested gold nanoparticles with certain chemical groups attached. This approach was helpful in allowing them to model the process, but presented some problems in practice. Next, they tested micelles (aggregated fat molecules, almost like bubbles) as these provided compartments that could contain other catalysts. These proved much more effective as modular catalysts, successfully catalysing the model reaction used in the MODUCAT project. Further studies of this reaction helped researchers better understand the requirements for an effective modular catalyst. The MODUCAT project concluded that developing modular catalysts that function in an aqueous solution is a feasible goal and should be pursued for commercial application.

Keywords

Catalyst, chemical synthesis, complex chemicals, asymmetric catalysts, enantiomers, modular catalysts, micelles, aqueous solution

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