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New life of old molecules: Calcium carbide

Date:
August 12, 2015
Source:
Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences
Summary:
Chemical applications of calcium carbide have been the focus of recent research, advancing the idea of diverse acetylene chemistry on the basis of carbide technology. Using a proposed approach, cheap and available carbide raw material has been effectively transformed into valuable products that are in demand in material science and organic synthesis, researchers report.
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Over the last few decades, researchers have focused their attention on very large molecules and molecular systems. Scientists from all over the world study proteomics, genomics, construct complex proteins, nucleic acids, decode the genomes of entire organisms, and design new sub-cellular structures. Outstanding enthusiasm for these important and essential areas of science has become so widespread that the question arose: "Is there a place for small organic molecules in modern science?" It might seem that old and well-known small organic molecules, as well as some areas of classical organic chemistry, have been forgotten.

Remarkably, despite the above mentioned trend of mega-molecules, state-of-the-art research anticipates re-investigation of tiny molecules. Indeed, small molecules carry a huge and previously unrevealed potential for science and industry. Renaissance in this area of science initiated an enlightenment of the well-known small molecules. An example of a small molecule is acetylene and derivative of acetylene -- CaC2 or calcium carbide.

Friedrich Wohler first introduced the prominent calcium carbide in 1862. As a matter of fact, this breakthrough revolutionized the lighting in the 20th century Europe and US. The manufacture of carbide reached thousands of tons by the middle of the last century. Such an increase was caused by the fact that carbide was mainly used for the production of acetylene. Nevertheless, the end of carbide lamps era came with the advent of safer electric light sources. The development of catalysis and petrochemistry introduced cheaper acetylene sources, so calcium carbide was left behind.

An innovative method, proposed by a group of researchers led by Professor Ananikov, investigates the synthesis of valuable organic molecules directly from calcium carbide, without separation and storage of acetylene gas. As an example, thiovinylation reaction occured directly in the reaction mixture. Firstly, acetylene is allocated from calcium carbide and water, and secondly, thiol molecules get attached to the acetylene molecules. Both processes take place one-pot and do not require sophisticated equipment. The use of calcium carbide not only fundamentally simplifies and reduces the cost of synthesis, but also avoids the problems associated with transporting, storing, and handling of acetylene gas.

The developed process gives a vivid example of successful replacement of dangerous and difficult to handle acetylene gas by a simple and inexpensive calcium carbide. If the further research manages to carry out the chemistry of acetylene utilizing carbide-based technologies, the proposed method will open a new direction in organic chemistry. Without a doubt, the "little" calcium carbide will find its a place in modern chemistry, which acknowledges the ideas of safety, sustainability, and simplification.


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Materials provided by Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Konstantin Rodygin, Valentine Ananikov. Efficient Metal-Free Pathway to Vinyl Thioesters with Calcium Carbide as the Acetylene Source. Green Chem., 2015; DOI: 10.1039/C5GC01552A

Cite This Page:

Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences. "New life of old molecules: Calcium carbide." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150812131454.htm>.
Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences. (2015, August 12). New life of old molecules: Calcium carbide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150812131454.htm
Institute of Organic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences. "New life of old molecules: Calcium carbide." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150812131454.htm (accessed May 26, 2017).

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