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Chirik lab: Modern alchemists are making chemistry greener

Research Highlights- - By Liz Fuller-Wright, Office of Communications

Ancient alchemists tried to turn lead and other common metals into gold and platinum. Modern chemists in Paul Chirik’s lab at Princeton are transforming reactions that have depended on environmentally unfriendly precious metals, finding cheaper and greener alternatives to replace platinum, rhodium and other precious metals in drug production and other reactions.

Paul Chirik
Paul Chirik, Professor of Chemistry
Photo by C. Todd Reichart

They have found a revolutionary approach that uses cobalt and methanol to produce an epilepsy drug that previously required rhodium and dichloromethane, a toxic solvent. Their new reaction works faster and more cheaply, and it likely has a much smaller environmental impact, said Chirik, the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry. “This highlights an important principle in green chemistry — that the more environmental solution can also be the preferred one chemically,” he said. The research was published in the journal Science on May 25.

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