A team of scientists from Newcastle and Strathclyde universities has achieved one of the “most spectacular” demonstrations to date of an innovative form of chemistry which enables chemical bonds to be broken and their fragments trapped. Now the team hopes the process could pave the way to finding new, more efficient ways of producing a range of materials such as those used electronic devices, plastics and paint.
The experiments in ‘cleave and capture’ chemistry, published this week in the journal Nature Chemistry, produced an extreme reaction when the research team smashed apart a cyclic ether compound known as THF (tetrahydrofuran).
The researchers were then able to collect all the ion fragments of the broken ring.
Newcastle University’s Professor Bill Clegg, explained: “What we have done is taken a type of reaction that was previously seen as a nuisance and for the first time identified all the pieces of the dismembered solvent molecule.
“We are seeing a possible exciting use of something chemists have deliberately avoided previously, and now we need to look at other chemicals and other reactions and explore their potential.”
Professor Robert Mulvey, of Strathclyde University, added: “It was remarkable to see so many bonds broken in the reaction and it was one of the most spectacular demonstrations of cleave and capture chemistry to date.
“It may seem like chemical carnage but we were able to capture all the fragments in a controlled manner and gather them together.
“Cleave and capture is an exciting new concept in chemistry with a host of possibilities for studying the mechanisms of reactions and using the fragments in other procedures.”
The Newcastle-Strathclyde chemistry collaboration is now in its 25th year and in that time the team has published more than 100 academic papers.