Targeted synthesis of natural products with light

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Posted December 18, 2013
Targeted synthesis of natural products with light
The bulky Lewis acid (above) shields one side of the substrate (bottom) pushing the photoreaction in to the direction of the desired product. Furthermore the complex of Lewis acid and substrate requires a lower excitation energy than the substrate alone. Radiating the complex with light of this wavelength favors the formation of the desired substance while it delivers not enough energy for the non-specific photoreaction of the uncomplexed substrate. Credit: Richard Brimioulle
Photoreactions are driven by light energy and are vital to the synthesis of many natural substances. Since many of these substances are also useful as active medical agents, chemists try to produce them synthetically. But in most cases only one of the possible products has the right spatial structure to make it effective. Researchers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have now developed a methodology for one of these photoreactions that allows them to produce only the specific molecular variant desired.

For chemists, natural substances are compounds formed by organisms to fulfill the myriad biological functions. This biological activity makes them very interesting for industrial applications, for example as active agents in medication or as plant protection agents. However, since many natural substances are difficult to extract from nature, chemists are working on creating these substances in their laboratories.

A key criterion in the manufacture of natural substances is that they can be produced with the desired spatial configuration. But photoreactions often create two mirror-image variants of the target molecule that can have very different properties. Since only one of theses molecules shows the desired effect, researchers would like to avoid producing the other.

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