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Chemistry Professor Wins Award
updated: Jun 28, 2012, 1:03 PM
UC Santa Barbara chemistry professor Bruce Lipshutz has been awarded the 2012
Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis (EROS) Best Reagent Award. The
annual award is sponsored by Sigma-Aldrich and John Wiley.
"It's a terrific acknowledgement of the students who did the work; this is
really their award," said Lipshutz. With his lab team, Lipshutz developed copper
hydride-based reagents that can be used in very small amounts, and are capable
of several types of reactions potentially useful for the synthesis of various
materials -- from drugs to polymers, to naturally occurring molecules.
Aside from being very reactive, said Lipshutz, the catalysts -- called (R)-(-)-
DTBM-SEGPHOS copper hydride; and (S)-(+)-DTBM-SEGPHOS-copper hydride -- are
versatile, inexpensive, and produce high yields of the desired products.
"We want to push the envelope as to how low a level of these reagents can be
utilized yet still be effective with this kind of chemistry, especially when
being done in water rather than in organic solvents," said Lipshutz, who will be
giving the award lecture at Wayne State University in the fall.
Lipshutz and his lab are part of an emerging movement called "Green Chemistry,"
a field that emphasizes environmentally benign processes. These involve reduced
energy requirements, the use of less hazardous and more environmentally friendly
chemicals, and the reduction of waste. In 2011, Lipshutz won the Presidential
Green Chemistry Challenge Award, given to a single academic -- in this case, for
the development of an enabling technology that allows these types of metal-
catalyzed reactions to be conducted in water, and at room temperature. The more
traditional approach typically involves using organic solvents and energy in the
form of applied heat. Lipshutz's technology also has the added benefit of being
"benign by design;" based on innocuous vitamin E, it results in virtually no
pollution. In water it forms nanoparticles that serve as nanoreactors wherein
the catalytic reactions take place.
Specially-engineered surfactants make synthetic chemistry processes efficient by
eliminating side-product formation that typically results from heating, Lipshutz
said. They also reduce the need for both purification and the disposal of
potentially hazardous waste, and usually result in a reduction in costs
associated with those processes. Catalysts -- substances that facilitate or
generate reactions without themselves being consumed or changed by the process
-- are particularly favored because they are used in small amounts and can
oftentimes be recycled.
"In addition to the upfront costs, re-purification and/or disposal of organic
solvents can be expensive," said Lipshutz, who estimates that pharmaceutical
companies produce roughly 50-200 kilograms of waste for every kilogram of drug.
"Why not get the best of all worlds -- why not benefit from their spectacular
products that are so essential for maintenance of human health, and yet, not
create such enormous organic waste, over 70 percent of which is organic
solvent," he said. "Organic chemists are paying serious attention to this issue,
which is a natural outgrowth of the industry. We as a community -- worldwide --
have certainly contributed to these environmental problems, but we can surely
help to solve them as well; and that is exactly what we at UCSB plan to do."
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