Catalysts from UK start-up promise cleaner, greener reactions

Related tags Chemical reaction

A new company spun out from the University of Durham in the UK,
called LyraChem, has developed a new catalytic technology for the
pharmaceutical and chemical sectors that should reduce the amount
of wastage and contamination that can occur with rival catalysts.

The organic catalysts, developed on the basis of research carried out by the university's Andy Whiting, David Jay and Carl Thirsk, are based on the principle of bifunctional catalysis, a well-understood phenomenon in nature in which enzymes carry two or more functional groups to carry out multiple transformations on a substrate.

Whiting et al​ hypothesised that, from that perspective, "we thought that we could design simple, low-molecular-weight, organic compounds that would act as potentially efficient and selective synthetic catalysts."

The team identified certain stable amino-boronate-containing compounds that had not been studied in detail as potential bifunctional catalysts. In 2001, the researchers initiated a programme to carry out feasibility studies on the synthesis and application of amino-boron-based bifunctional catalysts, which underpin the new company's technology.

"Chemical manufacture invariably involves multi-step processes to prepare quite simple compounds, bringing with it unwanted waste and contamination with metals and other by-products,"​ said Whiting in an interview with the Northern Business Daily.

"But we have designed a family of completely new, environmentally benign catalysts that overcome all of those problems. They can be applied across a number of industries, specifically in pharmaceuticals,"​ he added.

There are also possible applications in the flavours and fragrance area, and for bulk chemicals manufacture, added Whiting.

The company said it is already talking to companies and agents in the US, Japan, Switzerland and Germany, and will consider allowing the technology being used under licence by third parties.

LyraChem​ has been set up to manufacture and market the catalysts, in addition to performing custom synthesis and fine chemicals manufacture.

Related topics Ingredients Processing equipment

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