Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Click chemistry in oleochemicals

2011 marked the fourth annual “Workshop on Fats and Oils as Renewable Feedstocks for the Chemical Industry”, held in Karlsruhe, Germany on March 20 – 22, 2011, by abiosus e.V., Non-Profit Association for the Advancement of Research on Renewable Raw Materials.

It has been a timely event reflecting the overall industrial trend to move from petrochemicals towards oleochemicals. The effort is to use renewable fat and oils as raw materials / platform chemicals and to use green and efficient processes in the manufacturing – where click chemistry is to lend a hand.

The champion is thiol-ene addition, initiated either by thermal or photochemical method. In the workshop multiple reports described use of thio-ene click chemistry to prepare monomers such as polyols for polyurethane. Also reported was the introduction of a large variety of functional groups to fatty acids for polyester and polyamides synthesis. Advantages were demonstrated: very high yield, undemanding conditions, insensitivity to oxygen inhibition, and ease of purification.

Application of thiol-ene addition in oleochemicals may present the best opportunity and first breakthrough for click chemistry to get into traditional on-scale chemical industry. Note that currently click chemistry is mostly used for discovery purposes, either in medicinal chemistry or materials science.

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