The AFRICA (Automated Flow Reaction Incubation and Control Apparatus) system is a flow microreactor in which small quantities of material are continuously injected and reacted together. Parameters such as reaction time, temperature and stoichiometry can be changed in real time and a series of reactions can be set up, run and analysed overnight, reducing reaction optimisation time. It can be used by research and development chemists to accelerate compound synthesis and improve reactions.
Prof Ley, a former president of the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry, has a proven track record in developing new synthetic methods and catalysts. He said: "Chemists will now be able to explore new reactions that until now have not been possible due to the limitations of more traditional methods."
AFRICA has already been validated for a number of standard chemical reactions, such as condensations, ring formation, multi-component reactions (eg Passerini), substitutions, esterifications and deprotections. It was developed in partnership with the world's number two pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. GSK collaborated with Syrris on a new micro-scale flow technology used in the product.
"We'll be using AFRICA to carry out a program of multi-step synthesis work," said Prof Ley.
"We've already demonstrated that flow is well suited for combining homogeneous reactions with the use of immobilised reagents, and that we get the benefits of fast optimisation and small scale," he added.
Aside from its obvious applications in process development and reaction optimisation, the unit is also expected to be used in drug discovery.