A method to make the chemical industry "green" has been found by Tel Aviv University scientists.
Professor Arkadi Vigalok from the School of Chemistry, an affiliate of the university, says that he knows how to use water to make certain steps of a complicated chaim of chemical reactions more eco-friendly.
He says that his solution replaces chemical solvents, which can pollute the environment, with water.
He agrees that many chemists believe in the possibility of this approach, but insists that it has rarely been attempted.
"Ten to twenty chemical reactions may be done to make a single medicine, and in each step organic solvents are used. If we can cut out their use by applying water instead, this could amount to a substantial advance," Prof. Vigalok says.
As to how his approach works, Prof. Vigalok has revealed that he mixes water with organic compounds called aldehydes.
He has found that an oxidation reaction needed to convert the materials to a new product, carboxylic acid, can be achieved without the use of solvents.
According to him, the oxygen for this reaction is consumed directly from air.
Prof. Vigalok notes that aldehydes do not mix with water, and thus effectively "float" on the surface, where the reaction takes place.
He believes that this method can be applied to a few key stages in the reaction process, and that the used water can then be easily recycled.
Prof. Vigalok says that the time has come when scientists around the world must take necessary steps to make the chemical industry less destructive to the environment.
"The plastics industry, the oil refinery business, every drug we take - they're all parts of the chemical industry, the biggest industry in the world by far. In making certain steps of the chemical process greener, we may not have an enormous impact on the environment at present, but we certainly challenge chemists to rethink methods used in traditional chemistry," says Prof. Vigalok.
A research article describing Prof. Vigalok's work has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.