Leaving Organic Solvents Behind: Chemistry in Aqueous Media

Organizers: Megan Shaw, Sr. Scientist, Merck; Kevin Maloney, Director, Merck

Traditionally, chemists have relied on the use of organic solvents as the primary reaction medium for both academic research and the development of industrial processes. While offering desirable attributes with respect to solubilizing organic compounds and promoting reactivity, organic solvents contribute heavily to overall waste generation, have negative implications for the environment and often derive from finite resources. This session will outline the largely untapped potential of conducting chemistry in water by demonstrating that, not only does water provide a green and sustainable alternative to organic solvents, it can offer distinct advantages with respect to reactivity, cost efficiency and waste generation. Successful strategies which overcome the commonly perceived challenges of low solubility and stability of organic/organometallic molecules in water will be discussed and the exciting opportunities arising from the use of enzymes, catalysts ideally suited to an aqueous environment, in organic synthesis will be highlighted.