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Highlights in Chemical Science

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Water: the solvent for organic chemists?

27 January 2006

Aqueous reactions could be the answer to the future of organic chemistry, say scientists in Canada and the US.

Organisation of organic compounds to form a living organism requires the construction of chemical bonds in an aqueous environment. Following nature's lead, Chao-Jun Li at McGill University, Canada, and Liang Chen at Tulane University, US, have demonstrated why water should be thought of as a versatile solvent for organic chemistry.

Water as a solvent is not only inexpensive and environmentally benign, but also shows completely different reactivity to organic solvents. Organic reactions in water are varied and have many applications such as in the synthesis of biological compounds from carbohydrates and the chemical modification of biomolecules.

Such organic reactions in water are now as diverse as those that occur in organic solvents. Li and Chen believe that the broad and varied application of aqueous organic reactions will provide a strong driving force for the future development of this area.

Jenna Wilson


C-J Li and L Chen, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2006, 35, 68 (DOI: 10.1039/b507207g)