Faster reaction rates, a substantially higher yield and a cleaner production process than is currently possible in the chemical industry. That is the result of a new sustainable chemical process that researchers from Universiteit van Amsterdam and Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen have developed with support from NWO ACTS (Advanced Chemical Technologies for Sustainability). A patent has recently been requested for this discovery.
The researchers discovered a so-called one-pot synthesis of complex molecules, in which several chemical steps take place in a single reaction vessel. Such an approach is very common in nature, for example, the life processes in a cell. However, in the laboratory and the chemical industry it is still in its infancy. The industrial partner of the researchers, Synthon, has recently requested a patent for this discovery. This is the first patent to emerge from an ACTS research project.
In the synthesis, the researchers combined a chemical reaction step, a metal-catalysed conversion, with a biological step that uses enzymes. For this to work the reaction conditions, e.g. temperature and pH, must be optimised for both steps. To their surprise the researchers noted that the resulting one-pot synthesis eventually lead to faster reaction rates with a substantially higher yield, than the two separate reactions.
This synthesis concerns products built from complex molecules, for example, drug molecules. The pharmaceutical industry is particularly interested in such innovative methods. As well as economic benefits, these all provide advantages in the area of sustainability: a reduction in the number of reaction steps leads to a reduction in waste substances and a reduction in the energy needed.
The research project is one of nine projects currently running within the ACTS programme IBOS (Integration of Biosynthesis and Organic Synthesis). The cooperating partners in this project are Universiteit van Amsterdam, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and the pharmaceutical company Synthon. The IBOS programme is one of the five subsidy programmes supported by ACTS.