Chemists uncover 'green' catalysts with promise for cheaper drug production

( -- A University of Toronto research team from the Department of Chemistry has discovered useful "green" catalysts made from iron that might replace the much more expensive and toxic platinum metals typically used in industrial chemical processes to produce drugs, fragrances and flavours.

The synthesis of drugs usually relies on the use of catalysts and the expense of the catalysts influences the ultimate cost of the drug. If the catalyst is toxic, as it usually is when platinum-metals such as ruthenium, rhodium and are used, then it must be removed completely from the synthesized product using costly purification techniques.

"With a cheaper and less toxic catalyst, like iron, these drawbacks are avoided," says Professor Robert Morris. The study appeared online in Chemistry - A European Journal on April 9.

The successful use of iron as a catalyst in place of the more commonly used ruthenium is surprising since iron has been considered to be a "base metal" of low . The successful trick was to prepare a complex of iron with a structure similar to the most active catalyst, says Morris.

Chemical catalysts are generally known for their ability to speed up a reaction but they can also influence the structure of the chemical that is produced in that reaction, says Morris. Catalysts used in the synthesis of a chemical used as a drug or fragrance are most valuable when they cause the production of the chemical in one structural form and not the mirror image of that form (i.e. producing a left-handed form and not the right-handed one).

The catalyst was made by attaching to , in its "ferrous" state, an organic molecule that contains carbon, hydrogen, phosphorus and with the atoms arranged in exclusively a right-handed structural form. The is used in small amounts to convert a large amount of inexpensive ketone to a large amount of the valuable alcohol product in just the left-handed form. This process is called asymmetric transfer hydrogenation.

Source: University of Toronto (news : web)

Explore further

Environmentally safer catalyst proves more active in hydrogen production

Citation: Chemists uncover 'green' catalysts with promise for cheaper drug production (2009, April 13) retrieved 15 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Apr 13, 2009
Alchemy = Monatomics. Solomon's Temple. Sumarians. David Radius Hudson.

If the news story above is somehow different..I don't see it.

You see, Hudson said that under spectroscopic analysis..that monatomic versions of the platinum metals group..would come up as 'iron..silicon..and aluminum'.(the scanning would recognize them as such)

This "conversion" can be done by the methods outlined here.

Ie, that Iron itself can be converted/(handled into being) to something other than what you think it is....

The alchemists used chemistry for these tricks.

Is this any different? I don't think so.

So what it seems to that the world has considerably more of the platinum metals group than you think it has..they are just sitting around in a monatomic oxide form. Investigate rhodium plating issues for a bit of proof on that.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more