1 small step for a lab science, 1 green leap for mankind

May 27, 2008

"Environmentally friendly" is not a phrase normally used to describe a chemistry lab. But thanks to a groundbreaking discovery at Tel Aviv University, the chemical industry is a step closer to being green.

Prof. Arkadi Vigalok from the School of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University has discovered a way to use water to make certain steps of a complicated chain of chemical reactions more environmentally-friendly.

Prof. Vigalok's solution replaces chemical solvents, which can pollute the environment, with water. Though chemists have long thought it possible, Prof. Vigalok's approach has only rarely been even attempted. His discovery was recently reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition.

A Natural Solvent

"Ten to twenty chemical reactions may be done to make a single medicine, and in each step organic solvents are used," Prof. Vigalok says. "If we can cut out their use by applying water instead, this could amount to a substantial advance." Prof. Vigalok noted that 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) of solvents and materials might be used to produce 1 kilogram (about 2 pounds) of medicine.

In his new approach, water is mixed with organic compounds called aldehydes. Prof. Vigalok discovered that an oxidation reaction needed to convert the materials to a new product, carboxylic acid, can be achieved without the use of solvents. Moreover, the oxygen for this reaction is consumed directly from air.

Walking on Water

Because aldehydes don't mix with water, they effectively "float" on the surface, where the reaction takes place. This method can be applied to a few key stages in the reaction process. The used water can then be easily recycled.

Prof. Vigalok and his team at Tel Aviv University join a small but growing group of chemists around the world who are making the chemical industry less destructive to the environment. The field is now known as "Green Chemistry."

"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.
-end-
American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel's largest and most comprehensive center of higher learning. It is ranked among the world's top 100 universities in science, biomedical studies, and social science, and rated one of the world's top 200 universities overall. Internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research programs, Tel Aviv University consistently produces work with profound implications for the future.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Related Chemical Reactions Articles from Brightsurf:

Shedding light on how urban grime affects chemical reactions in cities
Many city surfaces are coated with a layer of soot, pollutants, metals, organic compounds and other molecules known as ''urban grime.'' Chemical reactions that occur in this complex milieu can affect air and water quality.

Seeing chemical reactions with music
Audible sound enables chemical coloring and the coexistence of different chemical reactions in a solution.

Nanocatalysts that remotely control chemical reactions inside living cells
POSTECH professor In Su Lee's research team develops a magnetic field-induced heating 'hollow nanoreactors'.

New NMR method enables monitoring of chemical reactions in metal containers
Scientists have developed a new method of observing chemical reactions in metal containers.

Levitating droplets allow scientists to perform 'touchless' chemical reactions
Levitation has long been a staple of magic tricks and movies.

Predicting unpredictable reactions
New research from the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions.

First-time direct proof of chemical reactions in particulates
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have developed a new method to analyse particulate matter more precisely than ever before.

Finding the source of chemical reactions
In a collaborative project with MIT and other universities, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have experimentally detected the fleeting transition state that occurs at the origin of a chemical reaction.

Accelerating chemical reactions without direct contact with a catalyst
Northwestern University researchers demonstrate a chemical reaction produced through an intermediary created by a separate chemical reaction, findings that could impact environmental remediation and fuel production.

Visualizing chemical reactions, e.g. from H2 and CO2 to synthetic natural gas
Scientists at EPFL have designed a reactor that can use IR thermography to visualize dynamic surface reactions and correlate it with other rapid gas analysis methods to obtain a holistic understanding of the reaction in rapidly changing conditions.

Read More: Chemical Reactions News and Chemical Reactions Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.