Department of Chemistry



Science Paper From the Koide Group Reports a Safer and Faster Way to Perform Birch Reduction

November 18, 2021 - 8:53am

The Birch reduction converts aromatic to non-aromatic compounds and is an essential chemical technique nearing a century old. The reaction can potentially be useful for making drugs and perfumes. However, traditional Birch reductions require highly toxic and environmentally hazardous liquid ammonia under cryogenic conditions, making it nearly impossible to perform in industrial settings.   In a paper recently published in Science (link), the Koide group reported a new protocol using common organic solvent tetrahydrofuran instead of ammonia and the inexpensive ethylenediamine. This reaction is performed at ambient temperature, is safer, simpler to set up, and scalable. In a Chemical and Engineering News article (link), Prof. Koide noted that the simplicity of the method surprised the team. “I hope that people will start using the Birch reduction more actively without hesitation and with improved safety,” he says. Videos of a 0.5 mole-scale reaction were posted on Twitter (link).