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A chemist from RUDN developed a green catalyst for pharmaceutical and industrial chemistr

A chemist from RUDN developed a green catalyst for pharmaceutical and industrial chemistr

Many production facilities (e.g. plastic manufacturers, pharma companies, and others) use nanocatalysts that contain palladium—an expensive component that is not sustainably produced. A chemist from RUDN University found a way to reduce palladium consumption and to make its manufacture more eco-friendly. He developed a catalyst based on a substance that comes from plant waste. Using his invention, manufacturers could cut palladium consumption in half. Moreover, new catalysts can be reused multiple times without any decrease in efficiency.

Cross-coupling is a type of reaction that involves combining carbon atoms from different organic molecules. Cross-coupling reactions are most widely spread ones in industrial chemistry. They are used to synthesize plastics, medicinal drugs, and other compounds and account for 17% of all reactions in medical chemistry only. The main component of cross-coupling is palladium nanoparticles. Palladium is one of the rarest elements on Earth, which makes it a very expensive catalyst. Moreover, it is mainly produced at mining facilities that pose a considerable threat to the environment. A chemist from RUDN University suggested solving all these issues with one new approach.

The consumption of palladium in cross-coupling reactions increases because the particles of palladium-containing catalysts tend to bind together. There are two ways to stop this. One could modify the chemical properties of the particles to weaken the reaction between their surfaces when they come in contact. Alternatively, the metal could be held in place physically with a framework or a grid. The chemist from RUDN University chose the second method and locked metal particles in their respective places using a multilayer shell with a magnetic core.

The core of the new nanocatalyst consists of iron oxide with high magnetic properties. The coating is made of a catechol-based polymer. Catechol is a substance that is found in plant cell walls and is produced from plant waste. Both these layers are ancillary and have no catalytic activity. The catalytic properties of the compound come from palladium nanoparticles that are incorporated into the second layer. The polymer fixes the particles in place and prevents them from binding together.

The new catalyst structure requires twice as little palladium as the old one: 1.5% of the total nanoparticle weight as opposed to 3-6%. Moreover, after a couple of production cycles, the core of the nanocomposite material can be cleaned up and reused. This method is not only good for the environment but also economically feasible, as it will make the production of medicinal drugs, plastics, and other products cheaper.

“Today chemists are especially interested in green catalysts. Our nanocatalysts contain a product of plant waste recycling and at the same time efficiently work in cross-coupling reactions. Therefore, not only are they able to reduce palladium consumption and make the production process cheaper, but also are beneficial for the environment. Moreover, we managed to showcase the universal nature of polymers based on plant catechols. The same approach can be used when working with other metals including platinum, silver, or gold, or with catalysts of other organic reactions,” said Rafael Luque, PhD, Head of the Molecular Design and Synthesis of Innovative Compounds for Medicine Science Center at RUDN University.

The results of the study were published in the journal Molecular Catalysis.

Main Publications View all
15 Nov 2017
RUDN University scientists publish results of their scientific researches in highly-recognized in whole world and indexed in international databases journals (Web of Science, Scopus ect.). That, of course, corresponds to the high status of the University and its international recognition. Publications of June-September 2017 ( In Journals of categories Q1-Q3)
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03 Nov 2017
RUDN University organized the first 5G Summit R&D Russia on June 19 - 20, 2017
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Biologists from RUDN University discovered the secret of flaxseed oil with long shelf life

Biologists from RUDN University working together with their colleagues from the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Flax studied the genes that determine the fatty acid composition in flaxseed oil and identified polymorphisms in six of them. The team also found out what gene variations could extend the shelf life of flaxseed oil. This data can be used to improve the genetic selection of new flax breeds. The results were published in the BMC Plant Biology journal.

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19 Apr
Dentists from RUDN University Presented a New Classification of Root Canal Shape Changes

Individual characteristics of the shape and cross-section of the root canal are one of the main issues for dentists. When treating a root canal, a doctor needs to properly clean it, fill it, and carry out a rebuilding procedure so that a canal is sealed. The first stage of endodontic treatment requires detailed knowledge of root canal anatomy. A team of dentists from RUDN University studied and classified various changes in root canal shapes. The new classification will help doctors avoid diagnostic errors, better select their tools, and treat patients more efficiently.

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19 Apr
RUDN University Chemists Developed Cheap and Eco-Friendly Surfactants

An international team including chemists from RUDN University suggested an economically feasible and environmentally friendly method to synthesize surfactants. The new compounds can become an eco-friendly alternative to traditional chemicals used in oil production, skincare products manufacture, and in the pharmaceutical industry to transport drugs to diseased body tissues.

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