More Electrons, Please

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December 15, 2021

When your goal is to create new chemical products or pharmaceuticals, there are times when an electron source — in the form of a chemical compound known as a reductant — can be your best friend.

For example, reductants are used to neutralize contaminants in wastewater and to prepare bleaching reagents on an industrial scale.

A team of Yale chemists led by Nilay Hazari, working with researchers at the pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co., have developed a versatile new group of reductants that may prove useful in the discovery and preparation of pharmaceuticals. A study describing the soon-to-be commercially available reductants appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Importantly for practical applications, the new reductants can be used in the same phase of a chemical reaction as the substrates — the chemicals that are transformed into more valuable materials during the reaction — and the catalysts that initiate the reaction, making the reductants more versatile.

The reagents are also “tunable,” meaning their reactivity can be adjusted to match the substrate and catalyst.

“We have used this property to develop new reactions that are not possible with conventional reductants,” said Hazari, co-corresponding author of the study. “It is expected that these new reagents will make current reactions more practical and lead to the development of new reactions.”

Yale contributors to the study were co-first authors David Charboneau and Haotian “John” Huang, and co-authors Emily Barth, Cameron Germe, and Brandon Mercado.