Metathesis pioneers win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

05 October 2005 13:25  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news)--Yves Chauvin, Robert Grubbs and Richard Schrock share this year’s Noble Prize in Chemistry for the development of metathesis in organic synthesis, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on Wednesday.

The Nobel laureates have made metathesis into one of organic chemistry’s most important reactions, the Academy said, creating “fantastic opportunities” for producing new molecules such as pharmaceuticals.

“Metathesis can be compared to a dance in which the couples change partners,” it added.

Metathesis has opened up considerable opportunities in organic chemistry and in the chemical industry. Its first large-scale industrial use was in SHOP, the Shell higher olefins process. Today, metathesis reactions are also used to produce high molecular weight polyolefins.

The disproportionation or metathesis reaction of ethylene and butylene to form propylene is becoming seen as an economically feasible route to propylene in some geographic locations.

Chauvin, from the Institut Français du Petrole (IFP), in 1971 was able to explain in detail how metathesis reactions work and what types of metal compounds might act as catalysts.

Schrock, who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was in 1990 the first to produce an efficient metal-compound catalyst for metathesis based on tungsten and then on molybdenum.

Two years later Grubbs, who is at Caltech, the California Institute of Technology, developed a ruthenium based metathesis catalyst that is stable in air.

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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