Organic synthesis (the preparation of carbon-containing molecules in
the laboratory) is of great importance, because most of the current
drugs, plastics, dyes and fragrances are not anymore extracted from
natural sources. The possibility of making these compounds by using
light instead of toxic and expensive reagents or catalysts is studied
by a specific field of organic synthesis: the organic photochemistry.
synthesis of pharmaceutically active products
Most of today's pharmaceuticals (painkillers, antibiotics, anticancers,
etc.) are produced synthetically, even if the initial source was once
natural. The search for more efficient synthetic routes remains a
proority for organic synthesis. However, the quest for new structures
with new properties is also of highest importance, because current
drugs all have limitations and/or side effects, bacteria and cancers
develop resistance to treatments and new diseases are emerging.
The large-scale industrial preparation of chemicals has traditionally
required the use of toxic substances and/or massive amounts of energy.
Recently a new trend, called 'Green Chemistry', has emerged, which aims
at using environmentally harmless products, and avoiding the release of
toxic waste in the synthesis of the chemicals. In order to minimize the
energy needed for the activation of reagents, much effort is spent on
the development of new catalysts, following the example of Nature which
uses enzymes to accomplish biochemical transformations which would
otherwise never take place under ambient conditions.