Researchers develop new technique to control reactive radical molecules

Researchers at Cornell University have developed a novel approach to harness the potential of highly reactive radical molecules and make them work in pairs for transformative chemistry. By attaching large fragments to these molecules, they were able to increase their size, making them more stable and less reactive with their partners.

The method involves using synthetic electrochemistry, where electrodes pass an electrical current through a chemical reaction to activate inert molecules, forming chemical bonds that would be difficult to achieve otherwise. This process efficiently generates highly reactive radicals from simple chemical feedstocks.

To make these radicals work in pairs without annihilating each other, the researchers attached groups of carbon and hydrogen atoms to their surface, effectively giving each molecule a set of “antlers” that kept their partner at a safe distance, frustrating their reactivity.

The team focused on activating carbon-hydrogen bonds, which are common in organic molecules and are often used in pharmaceutical development. These bonds are strong but challenging to separate, making selective functionalization challenging.

By collaborating with researchers from Genentech, the team identified substrate targets for the desired chemical reactions and installed large functional groups on the frustrated radicals, hindering their reactivity.

The technique developed by the Lin Group has broad applications, including improving pharmaceutical compounds’ efficacy and biological activity, as well as tracking drug degradation in the human body. This innovative approach has the potential to create new and improved derivatives of pharmaceutical compounds, offering exciting possibilities for medicinal chemistry.

Source: Cornell University

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