Lehigh University
Lehigh University

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Cost-Cutting Chemicals

A team of chemists at Lehigh have recently published a new study on an important and useful chemical reagent in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), a new journal devoted to the publication of biological, medical, chemical and physical research in video format—a new step toward improved, multimedia communication of scientific discovery.

Chemistry Chair Robert Flowers, graduate student Kimberly Choquette and research scientist Dhandapani V. Sadasivam present their method for the production of samarium diiodide, SmI2, a reagent widely used in organic chemical synthesis in many important bond-forming reactions. It is a focus for many chemists because it allows for the combination of relatively inexpensive starting materials to produce more complex molecules efficiently. 

The Lehigh team is focused on finding new and environmentally-friendly chemical reactions that reduce costs and use readily available feedstock materials for the synthesis of complex end chemicals.

SmI2 has become a common tool for synthetic organic chemists as a mild and selective single electron reductant that carries out reactions important for the production of pharmaceutically relevant compounds, at room temperature. SmI2 can reduce and couple a variety of functional groups including epoxides, alkyl and aryl halides, carbonyls, and conjugated double bonds. One of the fascinating features of SmI2-mediated reactions is the ability to manipulate the outcome of reactions through the selective use of cosolvents or additives. In most instances, additives are essential in controlling the rate of reduction and Flowers’ research group has pioneered the mechanistic study of these processes.

Flowers’ team employed the use of video to demonstrate their experimental method, useful as samarium diiodide is sensitive to oxygen and traditional chemical reactions are commonly carried out in a controlled environment. In this study, the Lehigh teams shows how the reaction can be carried out under an argon atmosphere on the benchtop providing a simpler and less costly approach for the synthesis of the reagent. 

Watch the video here

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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