Flow electrosynthesis: Making fine chemicals using electrons


Istituto per lo Studio dei Materiali Nanostrutturati, CNR, Palermo, Italy

Thanks to a number of key fundamental scientific and technology advances including those in electrode and electrochemical cell manufacturing, using electrons to synthesize organic molecules at the surface of electrodes has become the object of intense chemical researches in several countries (1).

Today’s electrosynthesis proceeds via electrocatalysis. In the preferred configuration electrocatalysis is heterogeneous with the substrate molecules reacting at the surface of a functionalized, electrocatalytic electrode, rather than undergoing electron transfer with the electrode surface. Under homogeneous electrocatalysis conditions, the substrate reacts with the oxidised or reduced form of a mediator dissolved in solution (2).

In 2017 Baran identified the “lack of standardized equipment” as the first major challenge to the uptake of electrosynthesis “in modern synthesis laboratories” (1).

From a fundamental viewpoint, the reaction flask commonly used in modern (and old) synthesis laboratories is no different from batch reactors typically used in the multi-purpose plant typical of the fine chemicals ind ...