Institution: University of Alberta
Researcher: Dr. Steven Bergens
Funded $50,000 by GreenCentre for the following two technologies:
An increasing number of pharmaceutical, fine chemical, and agricultural compounds are based on molecules that are asymmetric, or "chiral" in nature. Since these chemical compounds are intended to enhance biological processes, their ultimate effectiveness and ability to impart value to society are directly related to the careful control of the level of asymmetry. Current processes used to carry out chiral reactions are often based on catalysts that contain toxic metals and require the use of organic solvents. Consequently, energy intensive and costly separation processes are needed to ensure that the metal is effectively removed.
GreenCentre is supporting Proof of Principle work to develop Dr. Bergens’ highly active and selective chiral catalysts into a reusable solid-phase catalyst system that would underpin more sustainable "flow-through" reactor designs. This system would allow easy reuse of the catalyst and dramatically minimize waste generation and energy use.
In the fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries, increasing molecular asymmetry (or chirality) of starting materials is a key step in making the ultimate product molecule active and commercially valuable. However, adding asymmetry to these molecules often requires multi-step reactions, expensive purifications, and environmentally unfriendly waste products. One particular starting molecule, the lactam, is commonly used in these industries as a starting structure for compounds such as vitamins and anti-cancer drugs.
GreenCentre has funded work to create a series of novel catalysts that efficiently add high levels of asymmetry to this molecule in a relatively simple one step reaction. This promises to allow a low-cost and environmentally friendly method to create novel starting molecules with high levels of asymmetry for the development of high value fine chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds.
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