September 9, 2008

New Method of Catalysis is Discovered

U.S. scientists say they've found a way to stimulate organic molecules that may lead to the creation of materials from new kinds of chemical reactions.

Princeton University Professor David MacMillan and colleagues said their new method of catalysis might produce groundbreaking kinds of drugs and agricultural chemicals, providing a shortcut to standard multistep methods of chemical production.

The method involves a weak source of light to catalyze or propel a reaction in a flask of fluid containing two different classes of chemicals.

"This is the first time that chemists have realized the potential to use simple light bulbs -- or weak light -- to catalytically propel organic chemical reactions Â… as extremely simple as it sounds," MacMillan said.

He said the process brings together two fields of chemistry -- organic catalysis and inorganic photoredox catalysis. "There are two interwoven catalytic cycles where everything is happening at just the right time," MacMillan said. "It's like an orchestra with the perfect conductor."

The research appears in the online journal Science Daily.