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Home > News > Clever catalysts promise commercial advantage

October 8th, 2008

Clever catalysts promise commercial advantage

Smarter catalysts that could help the chemical industry to cut costs and beat ever-more stringent government regulations were showcased at CPhI, the pharmaceutical ingredient trade show, held in Frankfurt, Germany, 30 September to 2 October.

Staying one step ahead of cheaper drug manufacturers in India and China was an important consideration for Japanese firm Sumitomo Chemical.

Their asymmetric catalysts include the phosphorus and nitrogen-based PINAP ligands, developed with Erick Carreira at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, and a series of organocatalysts developed with Yoshiji Takemoto at Kyoto University in Japan.

'If normal technology can give an intermediate in 10 steps, but our catalysts can cut this to two or three, or improves enantioselectivity, this helps us to compete with low labour costs,' Sumitomo's team leader of pharmaceuticals research, Kazuo Murakami, told Chemistry World.

Meanwhile, tighter government controls on industry's use of lead have left the chemical industry searching for alternatives. Germany's BASF unveiled palladium-nanoparticle based catalysts to replace the Lindlar catalyst, a mixture of palladium and lead used to selectively hydrogenate alkynes into cis alkenes. The high surface area of the replacement palladium nanoparticles means only around 0.5 weight per cent of the metal is used, 10 times less than the traditional Lindlar catalyst.


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