Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Better connections through green catalysis

Finely tuned nickel complexes combine important biomolecular precursors with high efficiency and low environmental impact

In chemistry, the nitro group (O-N=O) has a formidable reputation. The high reactivity that makes some nitro-bearing molecules potent explosives—think nitroglycerin or trinitrotoluene (TNT)—also enables NO2 to be extremely versatile in organic synthesis. Chemists can transform nitro groups into numerous other functionalities, such as biologically important amines or carbonyl compounds, providing a constant demand for new, efficient reactions involving these compounds.

Now, researchers led by Mikiko Sodeoka from the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako have developed an innovative way to connect organic molecules known as nitroalkenes and α-ketoesters together with precisely controlled geometries1. Because this synthesis uses an ‘environmentally friendly’ catalytic system, it can help create a broad range of molecules, including therapeutic natural products, under mild conditions.

Typically, reactions between nitroalkenes and α-ketoesters require hazardous liquids, generous quantities of catalysts, and very low temperatures to be successful. Instead, Sodeoka and her team were able to complete this chemical transformation at room temperature, with a non-toxic propanol solvent, by using small amounts of a nickel acetate catalyst —an advance with significant cost-saving and environmental-hazard reducing potential.

According to Yoshitaka Hamashima, a co-author of the paper, this discovery originated in the team’s previous finding that certain palladium complexes are stable and active catalysts, even in water2. After several trials, the researchers determined that nickel catalysts, which share similar properties to palladium materials, allowed the α-ketoesters to add to nitroalkenes with high yields and purity; over 90% of the final product corresponded to a specific stereoisomer, a molecule with a hard-to-achieve, geometrically distinct structure.

Hamashima explains that the nickel complexes are particularly effective because they recognize specific carbon atoms on the α-ketoesters and chemically activate them, generating products with precise frameworks. Furthermore, nickel has the right properties to maintain a delicate catalytic balance. “Nickel has a reasonable—not too strong, but not too weak—affinity towards nitro groups,” says Hamashima. “This affinity enabled the facile dissociation of the product from the catalyst, allowing high catalytic turnover.”

The high selectivity of this process, when combined with the mild reaction conditions, allowed the researchers to perform similar reactions on a broad range of molecules—including a highly efficient synthesis of the natural product kainic acid analog, a chemical that can bind to glutamate receptors within neuronal cells.

“Such selective activations are key to the success of our reaction,” says Hamashima. “Otherwise, undesired side reactions would occur when compounds with various functional groups are used as substrates.”

The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Synthetic Organic Chemistry Laboratory, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute

Journal information

1. Nakamura, A., Lectard, S., Hashizume, D., Hamashima, Y. & Sodeoka, M. Diastereo- and enantioselective conjugate addition of α-ketoesters to nitroalkenes catalyzed by a chiral Ni(OAc)2 complex under mild conditions. Journal of the American Chemical Society 132, 4036–4037 (2010)

2. Sodeoka, M. & Hamashima, Y. Chiral Pd aqua complex-catalyzed asymmetric C–C bond-forming reactions: a Brønsted acid–base cooperative system. Chemical Communications 5787–5798 (2009).

gro-pr | Research asia research news
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>