Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have invented a powerful method for joining complex organic molecules like olefins with heteroatoms or functional groups. This new method does not require the use of extreme temperatures or pressures, nor harsh chemicals. Therefore, portions of the building blocks used that are particularly fragile remain unaltered by the reaction. This method will have immediate application to pharmaceuticals, materials, and agricultural and fragrance chemistry.
Carbon-to-carbon coupling methods had certain limitations. They often failed if either of the starting compounds contains 'functional groups' (small, reactive regions) attached to their main structure; and also in the presence of 'heteroatoms' (non-carbon atoms such as nitrogen, oxygen and iodine). Functional groups that would be destroyed by other cross-coupling methods are totally unscathed when using our method
Research Associate Jinghan Gui said, "The reaction setup is easy. We use a simple iron catalyst, a commercially available silane and ethanol i.e., grain alcohol as the solvent; and we can do the reaction in an open flask, meaning that we don't need to exclude air or moisture." The research team demonstrated the robustness of their reaction by taking an unconventional approach and running it in vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, beer and wine instead of pure alcohol.
Chemists have shown that their reaction can be used to make compounds that were previously either unpractical to synthesize or could not have been made at all. In their report they have described making more than 60 compounds with the new method.
The study is reported in the 'Nature'.