University of New Orleans chemistry researchers have developed a new, environmentally friendly material for the production of important molecules that are used in pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals, such as herbicides and insecticides.
The research appeared in a recent edition of the prestigious American Chemical Society Journal "Organic Letters," and chemistry department chair Mark Trudell is currently seeking both U.S. and international patents on the invention.
Jumanah Hamdi, a chemistry doctoral student in Trudell's group, developed the new catalyst that allows molecules to form chemical bonds under very mild “green” conditions, Trudell said.
Making such connections between molecules, called Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling, is significant for the production of important molecules used in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and other fine chemical products, he said.
What is especially exciting about this discovery, Trudell said, is that, unlike previous systems, which required high reaction temperatures and expensive, environmentally unfriendly solvents, this new catalytic material works at room temperature, in water, and can be used repeatedly without significant loss in activity or leaching of the metal.
These characteristics are all extremely important to highly desirable clean, environmentally friendly green chemistry, Trudell said.
"This catalyst will allow chemists to make a large variety of important molecules, impacting all areas of synthetic organic chemistry," he said.
The catalyst consists of a naturally occurring clay nanoscale tubular material, halloysite, with palladium nanoparticles inside. Nanoscale materials are about one ten thousandth the width of a human hair, Trudell said.
The research team, led by Trudell, also includes chemistry doctoral student Alexis Blanco, undergraduate Brooke Diehl and John Wiley, chemistry professor and director of UNO’s Advanced Materials Research Institute.