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Innovative Method will Boost Green Chemistry and Industry

RBI Scientist Discovered a New Method for the Study of Chemical Reactions

Dec 4th 2012
RBI Scientist Discovered a New Method for the Study of Chemical Reactions

Ivan Halasz, PhD

Dr. Ivan Halasz, scientist in the RBI Laboratory for the synthesis of new materials, has discovered, in collaboration with an international team of scientists, a brand new, innovative and ecological method for investigating chemical reactions that could improve understanding of the chemical processes essential for the pharmaceutical, chemical and metallurgical industries and open new opportunities in the field of ‘green chemistry’ as well as the creation of new environmentally friendly chemical products.

Bulk solvents which are omnipresent in the chemical industry pose a serious threat to human health and the environment. As a result, there is a growing interest in avoiding their use by relying on ‘mechanochemistry’ as an energy-efficient alternative that uses high-frequency milling to drive reactions. However, due to intense impact of steel balls in rapidly moving jars the underlying chemistry is difficult to observe.

Scientists have now for the first time studied a milling reaction in real time, using highly penetrating X-rays to observe the surprisingly rapid transformations as the mill mixed, ground, and transformed simple ingredients into a complex product. This research, reported Dec. 2 in Nature Chemistry (IF 20), promises to advance scientists' understanding of processes central to the pharmaceutical, metallurgical, cement and mineral industries.

The international team of scientists from the University of Cambridge (UK), Max-Planck-Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart (Germany) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble (France) was led by Tomislav Friščić of McGill University (Canada) and Ivan Halasz from RBI.

The most frequently used solvents in chemical industry are alcohol-based solvents. About 6.4 million tons of alcohol-based solvents were utilized worldwide in 2011. The market experts forecast the global solvent market to earn revenues of about US$33 billion in 2019. Bulk solvents pose a serious threat to human health and the environment. Furthermore, responsible management of solvents represent a considerable cost for consumers.

A new method for the study of chemical reactions in real time using highly penetrating X-rays should enable a more efficient use of energy, reduction in solvent and optimize the use of often expensive catalysts. The research results are, therefore, great news for environment, industry and consumers!

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