Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Iron-based process promises greener, cheaper and safer drug and perfume production

University of Toronto researchers have developed a series of techniques to create a variety of very active iron-based catalysts necessary to produce the alcohols and amines used in the drug and perfume industry. The new synthetic methods promise to be safer and more economical and environmentally friendly than traditional industrial processes.

The research takes advantage of Earth's extensive supply of iron – the fifth most abundant naturally occurring metal – substituting it in place of the rare elements of ruthenium, rhodium, palladium and platinum traditionally used in the design of hydrogenation catalysts. The result is an exceptionally efficient class of iron complexes whose abilities rival and even surpass those of conventional industrial catalysts.

"There is a research effort world-wide to make chemical processes more sustainable and green by replacing the rare, expensive and potentially toxic elements used in hydrogenation, catalytic converters in cars, fuel cells for the efficient conversion of chemical energy into electricity, and silicone coatings, with abundant ions such as iron," says U of T chemistry professor Robert Morris, principal investigator of a study reported in the November 29 issue of Science. "Iron is about 10,000 times cheaper to obtain than ruthenium. And less than 200 metric tons of platinum-type metals are mined in the world every year, not all of it can be recycled after use, it is not essential to life, and it can be toxic."

"We found a way to make the ferrous form of iron behave in a catalytic process much more efficiently than a precious metal. We did this by finding molecules containing nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon and hydrogen, that bond to, and enhance, the reactivity of iron," says Morris.

The scientists inexpensively produced varieties of alcohol with different biological properties – which can be used in flavour and drug synthesis – and different smells, a property important to the perfume industry. In one example from the study, the precursor alcohol to a cancer treatment can be made using the hydrogenation process catalyzed by iron. Using iron, the resulting complex is often a better catalyst than the industrial one based on ruthenium.

The sustainable technology incubator GreenCentre Canada is already pursuing the commercialization of the new iron catalysts.

Funding for this research was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and GreenCentre Canada.


Robert Morris
Department of Chemistry
University of Toronto
Sean Bettam
Faculty of Arts & Science
University of Toronto

Sean Bettam | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

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

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>