Mirrored Forms of Molecules Developed with New Tools


Researchers at California Institute of Technology developed a new method for producing single carbon bonds without forming its chiral substitute, using inexpensive materials.

Molecules are formed with its own chirality, mainly biological molecules such as sugar and proteins. A chiral molecule/ion is non-superposable on its mirror image. The presence of asymmetric carbon center contributes for the organic and inorganic molecules to be chiral.

Various methods are used to separate the left- and right-handed forms, or enantiomers, of a molecule. The molecules are passed through special kind of sieves, which allow passages for only one kind of molecule. Another method is to create only one kind of molecule by developing some alterations during the chemical reaction. The researchers led by Gregory Fu, Caltech’s Norman Chandler Professor of Chemistry, formed a new method to develop carbon molecules in only one-handed forms, with abundant and inexpensive materials. The findings were reported in the journal Nature titled: “Catalytic Enantioconvergent Coupling of Secondary and Tertiary Electrophiles with Olefins” on October 18, 2018.

“This method can make the discovery and synthesis of bioactive compounds, such as pharmaceuticals, less expensive and less time-consuming than was possible with previous methods,” explained Fu. The method could be used to make abundant drugs and then could be tested for the desired uses.

The researchers used nickel catalyst, an alkyl halide, a silicon hydride, and an olefin to demonstrate their approach for creating molecules in only one chirality. The team made various classes of compounds with a specific chirality, such as beta-lactams, consisting of the same family as penicillin.


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