Designing a greener reagent

A safe and sustainable chemical reagent could aid cost-efficient development of new materials and medicines.

Researchers developed a solid acetylene reagent that makes it safer and easier to engineer new materials.

A team of Russian researchers has developed an eco-friendly chemical reagent that makes materials processing more accessible and sustainable. The reagent, which allows chemical synthesis to take place, could inspire a wide range of products, including medicines and biocompatible materials.

Scientists from the Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry and Saint Petersburg State University developed a solid acetylene reagent. Acetylene is one of the primary starting materials for chemical synthesis, but it is often used as a gas, which is highly flammable, potentially dangerous and difficult to use in a standard research laboratory.

The new, solid alternative is easier to manage, sidestepping the need for expensive equipment, as well as high processing temperatures and pressures that must be carefully managed for safety. The reagent is formed by combining two simple, readily available compounds: calcium carbide and potassium fluoride.

Calcium carbide is efficiently derived from a variety of renewable carbon products, such as plant materials or the output from waste processing. “We have found that a combination of these two simple compounds creates a new, very efficient reagent,” says Valentine Anaikov, who spearheaded the research.

“I anticipate a renaissance in calcium carbide chemistry due to increasing demand for safe and low cost production of complex organic molecules in pharmaceutical and materials sciences.”

As part of the study published in the journal Green Chemistry, the team explored applications of the chemical. The reagent helped produce biologically active molecules, including new medicines modified from existing drugs. For example, the scientists changed the function of steroids by altering the surface chemistry. Using the solid rather than gaseous reagent meant the chemical transformation could be carried out in any modern chemistry laboratory, with lower reaction temperatures and shorter reaction times.

The team also used the solid reagent to produce carbohydrate vinyl ethers, which are compounds whose properties can benefit drug delivery, such as high surface areas and tiny microcompartments. The vinylation reaction is an easy, ‘onepot’ procedure with synthesis taking place in a single vessel. The solid reagent is activated by simply adding water.

Furthermore, and in keeping with the green philosophy behind the process, the calcium part of the solid reagent can be regenerated and reused.

Further information
Professor Valentine P. Ananikov
E-mail: [email protected]
Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry
Russian Academy of Sciences

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Published: 18 Jan 2019

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