Oct. 6, 2010
Awarded to Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for the development of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling. Carbon, the atom that is the backbone of molecules in living organisms, is usually very stable and it can be difficult in the laboratory chemically to synthesize large molecules containing carbon. In the Heck reaction, Negishi reaction and Suzuki reaction (yes, they have chemical reactions named after them!), carbon atoms meet on a palladium atom, which acts as a catalyst. The carbon atoms attach to the palladium atom and are thus positioned close enough to each other for chemical reactions to start. This allows chemists to synthesize large, complex carbon-containing molecules. Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling is used in research worldwide, as well as in the commercial production of pharmaceuticals and molecules used in the electronics industry.