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12 Nov 2012

Copper shows promise for use in environmentally-friendly pharma

Scientists say that small quantities of copper could be used as an environmentally-friendly alternative to precious metals in the production of organic molecules when manufacturing pharmaceuticals.

Small quantities of copper could help to limit the quantity of precious metals used as catalysts in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, scientists have found.

At present, palladium and other previous metals are often used to enable the production of organic molecules in the pharmaceutical and other industries.

But these metals are expensive and can be harmful to the environment, according to Per-Fredrik Larsson, a chemist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

In addition, the quantity of metal in pharmaceuticals is strictly regulated and the recovery of metals can be complicated and costly.

Now, researchers at the university have discovered that small quantities of copper can be used as an alternative.

In fact, experiments with iron catalysis that produced promising results are now thought to have done so because of traces of copper in the iron source.

"This is an important finding, not just academically but also for industry," said Dr Larsson.
"Our results show that copper has been given an undeservedly bad name as a catalyst," he added

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