The Sceptical Chymist | ACS: Beginning to see the light

Published in Chemistry

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Have you ever wondered how you would evacuate several thousand people from a hangar-sized conference centre in the event of a fire? Well, now I know, because all the fire alarms went off yesterday morning at the Washington Conference Center. I’m pleased to report that there was no mad panic (chemists, of all people, know how to respond to fire-related emergencies) but it has to be said that it does take a long time – the all-clear had been sounded before I made it to the exit. It turned out to be a false alarm, by the way.

I felt sorry for the poor speakers who were interrupted mid-flow by sirens and flashing lights, but an honourable mention must go to the presenter at the session that I was attending: Malika Jeffries-EL handled the interruption with magnificent aplomb. And everybody came back to see the rest of her talk – about the synthesis of benzobisazoles as building blocks for conjugated polymers – once the alarm was over.

Later in the same session, Tehshik Yoon spoke about his work on visible-light-driven photochemical reactions, specifically [2+2] cycloadditions. The key to using visible light for these reactions is the ruthenium catalyst; JACS subscribers can read about some of this work here, in a paper that describes intermolecular cycloadditions. Yoon has now tweaked the chemistry so that it works in crossed intermolecular reactions, and that work is currently in press.

I wonder if visible-light-driven reactions might become something of a theme for the future, as David MacMillan is, of course, also working in this field. He spoke about the development of his photoreactions for the asymmetric alkylation of aldehydes (Science subscribers can read the first paper on this topic here). The latest development in this story will undoubtedly be of interest to medicinal chemists: a method for the trifluoromethylation of aldehydes, which is currently in press.

News from today’s sessions later…


Andrew Mitchinson (Senior Editor, Nature)

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