What’s the Big Deal?
Why do we need a whole website dedicated to olefin metathesis? Because there’s enough information out there to warrant one. And it’s a useful process. Ask any organic chemist and they’ll tell you that most of their time and effort is spent making carbon-carbon bonds. Most of the methods available to us involve pre-activation of one or both of the carbon atoms (for example, an alkylation reaction requires a metal enolate and an alkyl halide). The ideal C-C bond forming reaction wouldn’t require any pre-activation or stoichiometric reagents, and would proceed in high yield and with predictability. Olefin metathesis scores pretty highly in all those categories.
There are lots of reactions out there that fit the above criteria on paper, but with olefin metathesis, the proof is in the pudding. Olefins are cheap, the process is easy, and the products are valuable. The result is that metathesis has been adopted by chemists in all kinds of fields, from petrochemical to pharmaceutical to materials. I defy you to find a field that uses the tools of organic chemistry that hasn’t found a use for olefin metathesis.
- A Green Process. Because olefin metathesis is promoted by a catalyst, a well-designed process will generate little waste.
- Cost-effective. The same factors that make olefin metathesis a green process also make it cost-effective. There are plenty of examples out there of low catalyst loadings, solvent-free, high yielding processes. What more could you ask for?
- Scalable. Both homogeneous and heterogeneous olefin metathesis reactions have been successfully performed on scales ranging from milligram to multi-ton.