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  • Iron Catalyse Reaction Breakthrough
  • Professor Joe Sweeney

Iron Catalyse Reaction Breakthrough

Jan 24 2017 Read 543 Times

A team of scientists at the University of Huddersfield have developed a new chemical reaction that is catalysed using simple iron salts – an inexpensive, abundant and sustainable alternative to costlier and scarcer metals.  

The research* could lead to huge economic gains in the pharmaceutical and agrichemical sectors, plus more affordable medicines for healthcare providers. The core reaction developed at Huddersfield has been patented and research continues, with further publication in the pipeline.  

“Also, we are keen to establish connectivity with companies, so we can get these compounds out into industry as quickly as possible,” said project leader Joe Sweeney, who is Professor of Catalysis and Chemical Biology at the University.

“Most of the catalytes that are in current use are so-called scarce metals such as rhodium, palladium, platinum or iridium. The advantage is that they are usually very active, so they can mediate reactions quicker and at a lower catalytic loading.

“But if you look at tables of abundance in the earth’s crust, these metals are all right at the bottom, so there has been a big push towards devising catalytic processes that use more sustainable catalysts, such as iron, which is probably the most abundant metal.”

The new process is highly accessible, said Professor Sweeney.  “A key driver of organic chemistry is that it should be practical and shouldn’t require esoteric conditions.  Our process is carried out using standard apparatus in a standard laboratory at room temperature.  That is kind of the benchmark for organic chemistry.”

*An iron-catalysed C–C bond-forming spirocyclization cascade providing sustainable access to new 3D heterocyclic frameworks, by  Kirsty Adams, Anthony K. Ball, James Birkett, Lee Brown, Ben Chappell, Duncan M. Gill, P. K. Tony Lo, Nathan J. Patmore, Craig. R. Rice, James Ryan, Piotr Raubo and Joseph B. Sweeney is published in Nature Chemistry.

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