Bayer bids to take over Monsanto

Today, chemical giant Bayer put in a $62bn (£43bn) bid to take over agrochemical company Monsanto, a move which would see the formation of the world’s biggest agricultural supplier.

This would be the biggest ever takeover bid made by a German company, as the country tends towards lower risk expansions, and the offer has caused controversy among Bayer investors. Concerns have arisen because this would mean Bayer’s main interest would be in the agricultural sector, with many investors joining the company because of their pharmaceutical products.

Monsanto itself tried to take over rival company Syngenta last year, but had their offer rejected, and announced plans to cut 3,600 jobs in the aftermath. It’s unclear at the moment how this new merger will affect staff at the company, but many will be hoping the job cuts will be cancelled as Bayer take over.

Whatever the outcome, this and the upcoming merger of Syngenta and ChemChina which is yet to go through, will no doubt have a huge impact on the agrochemical industry in the upcoming years. With big pharma taking a tumble and small and SMEs coming into their own in recent years, the formation of huge chemical companies may prove a risky move. Time will tell.

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One metal centre, three different M-N bonds!

Why have one type of metal-nitrogen bond when you can have three? Well, a team from Michigan State University have done just that! A fascinating nitrogen analogue of the Schrock and Clark “yl-ene-yne” complex, W(CBut)(CHBut)(CH2But)(dmpe),  has been published in Chemical Science today.

nitridocompd

The compound and Schrock’s carbon analogue were both analysed using a combination of Mayer bond orders and Natural Resonance Theory (see above), which were both in good agreement and showed triple, double and single bonds to all be present in each compound.

The new compound unsurprisingly gave interesting reaction products with different electrophiles. Indeed, reactions with methyl iodide and acetic anhydride occur at the imido nitrogen, which may be predictable since you might expect a more negative charge to be located there. However, pivaloyl chloride reacts at the nitrido nitrogen atom, giving a rare example of a transition metal nitrido complex containing a carboxyl group on the nitrogen. This outcome may be down to sterics, but it would be very interesting to see the scope of reactivity with this new complex and other electrophiles.

All in all, this is a pretty cool new compound, and I’m sure we’ll see lots of interesting chemistry coming from it.

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Not So ‘Chemical-Free’

This is a great blog post from The Sceptical Chymist – part of the Nature Chemistry blogosphere. It relates to a page published in Nature Chemistry which illustrates the absurdity of the phrase ‘chemical-free’ which has no doubt irritated any lover of the chemical sciences for years.

I myself feel at my wit’s end by all the television adverts and product packaging which claim their product to be ‘chemical-free’ as the word ‘chemical’ is continued to be demonised by the media and advertising world. We’re bombarded with the notion that ‘chemicals’ are bad – they’re poisons which we want to avoid at all cost and surely any product that lowers there use must be superior. Unfortunately, the general public accept this notion willingly, and are perhaps unaware that thousands of items they use every single day of their lives – medicines, fuel, plastics, cosmetics, food – are all made up of useful chemicals which would be sorely missed if they were removed.

In short – the ‘chemical-free’ label is purely a myth.

I strongly suggest you take a peek at the article – it won’t take long!

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Self-Experimentation – Testing Chemical Weapons on Yourself

This article from BBC News describes how scientist John Haldane was so committed to the war effort during World War One that he tested chemical weapons on himself in order to develop the first gas masks.

Truly dedicated, Haldane thought it was best to test the gases on humans, since they were the only subjects who could report what was happening, and relied on his young daughter to break in and revive him should the worst happen.

During World War One, the German army used various gases. including chlorine, to attack troops on the front line, and without gas masks, soldiers could do very little to protect themselves from the damage it caused. With the matter becoming increasingly urgent, Haldane didn’t hesitate to use himself as a subject so that a solution could be developed quickly. In doing so, he was able to provide soldiers with box respirators, which were used throughout the war.

Nowadays, the idea of experimenting on yourself seems absurd, but this is just one of many scientific developments which utilised such extreme measures. In our age of very strict health and safety procedures, it’s awe-inspiring that these great figures in the history of science and technology were so dedicated to their cause that they would use themselves as guinea pigs. Although it isn’t recommended, we have to be grateful for it!

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Featured Journal: Green Chemistry

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It’s that time again! As part of my featured journal series, I decided to showcase a publication which is a bit more specific science-wise, but which still appeals to a wide audience. Published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Green Chemistry is a monthly journal which spans all areas of chemistry, as long as the research attempts to reduce the environmental impact of a process.

With an impact factor of 6.32, Green Chemistry is highly cited, highlighting the relevance of this relatively new area of chemistry. Green chemistry as a subject area has really taken off since Paul Anastas defined it in 1998, and journals such as this provide an excellent platform for showcasing cutting edge research in this field.

The RSC describe the journal as being based on the definition of Green Chemistry laid out by Anastas and and Warner, and covers the following areas:

  • The application of innovative technology to establish industrial procedures
  • The development of environmentally improved routes and methods to important products
  • The design of new, greener and safer chemicals and materials
  • The use of sustainable resources
  • The use of biotechnology alternatives to chemistry-based solutions
  • Methodologies and tools for measuring environmental impact
  • Chemical aspects of renewable energy

Featuring communications, reviews, full papers and perspectives, Green Chemistry has much to offer chemists working in this area, or anyone with a genuine interest in sustainable chemistry. You can view the journal online here, but either you or your institution will need a subscription to view all of the content.

In Green Chemistry today:

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“Olefin metathesis in aqueous media”

The formation of C-C bonds is crucial to organic chemistry, and olefin metathesis offers an atom-efficient method of doing just that. Due to this, this area of chemistry has received a significant amount of interest. Furthermore, water is coined as a ‘green’ solvent, as it’s safe, economical and non-toxic. This article is a critical review of such reactions carried out in aqueous media, providing an excellent overview for anyone interested in this area.

“Large-ring lactones from plant oils”

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With petroleum resources being used up, there’s an ever-increasing demand for sustainable sources of starting materials for the chemical industry. Lactones are important starting materials in many syntheses, particularly during ring-opening polymerisations. Large-ring lactones are also of interest in the fragrance industry. In this paper, compounds from sunflower and rapeseed oils are converted to macrocyclic lactones in just four steps, showing that natural sources can be just as good as, if not better than, traditional petroleum routes!

“Removal of platinum from water by precipitation or liquid-liquid extraction and separation from gold using ionic liquids”

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One for all you jewellery lovers! I’m sure everybody knows how rare and valuable platinum is, and finding efficient methods of extracting the metal is of incredible importance. Platinum is usually extracted using hazardous organic materials, which isn’t ideal. This paper describes the use of hydrophobic ionic liquids to extract platinum anions from aqueous solutions. Ionic liquids are promising new substances in green chemistry and beyond, and this is another example of how they can be utilised in a more sustainable process than what currently exists. Replacement of harmful organic compounds is becoming more and more important, and a more sustainable route to the isolation of platinum is a great step forward in this area.

Bio-inspired fabrication of silver nanoparticles on nanostructured silica: characterization and application as a highly efficient hydrogenation catalyst“

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What seems like a mouthful is actually a clever way of synthesising spherical silver nanoparticles using a biological protein which make efficient hydrogenation catalysts. Hydrogenation is a very important process in organic chemistry, and normally requires harsh conditions with expensive palladium catalysts, so an efficient and environmentally-friendly method for this process is very desirable. Furthermore, silver nanoparticles have received an enormous amount of interest recently due to their interesting properties and high surface area, making them great candidates for catalysts. This paper describes a way of using a biological protein anchored to nanoporous silica as an excellent template for the synthesis of silver nanospheres, which the authors hope can be developed into a larger-scale synthesis of such particles. If this can be done, it gives great hope for the larger-scale efficient and mild hydrogenation of organic compounds.

If you’re interested in how the chemical sciences are helping to drive us to a more sustainable future, you should definitely take a look at Green Chemistry. In a world where energy production is a major issue and petroleum supplies are drying up, more efficient and environmentally-friendly syntheses and processes are more important than ever.

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