Category Archives: pharmacology

Greener catalysts with iron nanoparticles

A research team at the University of Toronto has announced the discovery of a possible ‘green’ alternative to commonly used catalysts in the food, drug, and fragrance industries. From the March 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

A chemistry team at the University of Toronto has discovered environmentally-friendly iron-based nanoparticle catalysts that work as well as the expensive, toxic, metal-based catalysts that are currently in wide use by the drug, fragrance and food industry.

“It is always important to strive to make industrial syntheses more green, and using iron catalysts is not only much less toxic, but it is also much more cost effective,” said Jessica Sonnenberg, a PhD student and lead author of a paper published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (“Iron Nanoparticles Catalyzing the Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation of Ketones”).

The March 27, 2012 University of Toronto news release provides a quote from Sonnenberg which suggests there’s still a lot more work to be done before the toxic metal-based catalysts currently being used could be replaced,

… “Catalysts, even cheap iron ones developed for these types of reaction, still suffer one major downfall,” explained Sonnenberg.  “They require a one-to-one ratio of very expensive organic ligands – the molecule that binds to the central metal atom of a chemical compound – to yield catalytic activity. Our discovery of functional surface nanoparticles opens the door to using much smaller ratios of these expensive compounds relative to the metal centres.  This drastically reduces the overall cost of the transformations.”

This work at the University of Toronto reminded me of another team also working on green catalysts for chemical reactions and also based in Canada, this time at McGill University. The McGill team lead by Chao-Jun Li was mentioned most recently here in a Jan. 10, 2011 posting where their ‘nanomagnetics’ technology to replace the current toxic catalysts  is described.

Nanobiotechnology research cooperation between India and Australia

The Nov. 28, 2010 news item on Nanowerk features a nanotechnology project which seems to have been 120 years in the making,

Professor Den Hollander Vice-Chancellor and President of Deakin University was excited as well about this partnership and said, ‘Alfred Deakin first recognized the possibilities of India and Australia working together nearly 120 years ago. It is pleasing for everyone at Deakin and TERI [The Energy and Resources Institute] to be involved in a partnership that not only fulfils his prophecies but which has mutual benefits for both nations,” She further added, ‘For Deakin to be partnered with such an organization led by a man of Dr. Pachauri’s [TERI, Director-General] standing is a massive complement. We hope to use the agreement with TERI as a model for other partners.’

Dr. R. K. Pachauri is a world-renowned economist and the head of the Nobel Prize winning UN Climate panel. TERI, The Energy and Resources Institute in India, and Deakin University in Australia have recently signed a memorandum of understanding,

The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India and Deakin University, Australia signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to announce the setting up of a Centre of Excellence, the TERI-Deakin Nano Biotechnology Research Centre in the field of Nano Biotechnology in India. This development is an outcome of TERI’s core capability of knowledge creation and development of efficient, environment friendly technologies and Deakin’s India Research Initiative (DIRI) which is committed towards establishing a lasting association with industry partners in India to chart a vibrant culture of research and scholastic excellence.

The initiative is also aimed at bridging the gap between industry and academia through research and collaboration of world leading experts, which will enable efficiency, effectiveness and provide solutions for a sustainable future through the utilization of biotechnology. The TERI- Deakin Nano Biotechnology Research Centre will bring to the fore Deakin’s expertise in the design and characterization of novel nanomaterials while TERI’s Biotechnology and Management of Bioresource Division (BMBD) will bring their wealth of experience in biotech applications in pharmacology, food, agriculture and environmental areas.