Photochemistry in Ecosustainable Syntheses: Recent Advances

Authored by: Valentina Dichiarante , Stefano Protti

CRC Handbook of Organic Photochemistry and Photobiology

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439899335
eBook ISBN: 9781466561250
Adobe ISBN:


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Nature represents the most significant source of inspiration for researchers, due to the fact that several problems (still unresolved for scientists) have been ingeniously overcome by living organisms, thanks to evolution. A well-known example is represented by plants. Starting from simple materials, such as carbon dioxide, water, and mineral salts, they are able to synthesize a wide range of complex organic molecules, with efficient (and often stereoselective) processes, under mild conditions (room temperature, physiologic pH, and aqueous media). Moreover, the only energy source required is solar light and the only side product is molecular oxygen. What chemists can do is to search inspiration from these ideal laboratories, trying to replicate the same reactions in an artificial way. Although this biomimetic approach has been adopted since early decades of 1900 (see, e.g., Ciamician’s research), only in recent years it has been formulated, together with the concept of green chemistry. During the twentieth century, a series of tragic events in the chemical industry, caused partially by both safety shortage and lack of environmental awareness (e.g., Cuyahoga river’s fire, Bhopal, and Seveso accidents), impacted deeply on the attitude of public opinion toward chemistry (and sciences in general). These episodes, together with the consciousness of humanity of depending almost exclusively on nonrenewable (and pollutant) energy sources, such as fossils fuels, led to a report from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, published in 1987, and called “our common future” [1]. This is actually considered as the first official proposal of a sustainable development for industry and, in general, for civilization. If the concepts “green synthesis,” “environmental benign,” and “sustainable chemistry” are nowadays familiar to chemists and the development of environmental-friendly processes (on both industrial and laboratory scale) is considered as a priority, this is due to the incisive work of few research groups. The formulation of the 12 principles of green chemistry by Anastas and Warner [2] in 1991, then the concept of “atom economy” introduced by Trost [3], and the E-factors proposed by Sheldon [4,5] to quantify the greenness of a chemical process give an idea of how fast the mergence of a “green conscience” in chemical sciences was.

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