Keep it simple – from electrochemistry to flow synthesis

I remember Kevin Moeller’s instructive paper in Tetrahedron, where he showed that, in order to run complicated electroorganic experiments, all you need is a simple Lantern battery from Home Depot. While fancy set-ups with high precision capabilities are available, good experimentalists who lack access to complex set-ups always find a way around the problem:

These days, many of our students are attracted to flow synthesis. We recently had a nice departmental seminar on this subject by Thomas Johnson, one of Mark Lautens’ PhD students. I think chemists relate to the idea that new ways of improving mass transport can accelerate the rate of a given reaction, dramatically improving its efficiency. One of my former PhD students, Zhi He, is now heavily involved in flow synthesis in the lab of Prof. Tim Jamison at MIT. While I see the virtues of flow synthesis, I wonder: what can a lab with no access to microfluidics do in order to run reactions in flow? In short: be resourceful (just like Kevin Moeller). Here is a link to a great recent paper in J. Chem. Ed. by Prof. Thomas Wirth. Thomas was a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto several years ago and taught organic chemistry to our graduate students. The point of this work is to show that one can reap the benefits of flow set-ups and do it in an undergraduate lab using inexpensive syringes and glass tubes.

By the way, you can get glass reactors for these kinds of experiments from a cool German company by the name of “Little Things Factory”:

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