Ube Industries Develops Process for Swern Oxidation at Room Temperature Using Micro-Chemical Technology

Partnership with Research Association of Micro Chemical Process Technology and
Kyoto University enables Swern oxidation at temperatures exceeding minus 5oC

April 14, 2005

TOKYO, April 14, 2005__ Ube Industries, Ltd. has achieved an important breakthrough enabling Swern oxidation*1 at room temperature by utilizing micro-chemical technology*2. Swern oxidation is used extensively in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical intermediates, and is usually conducted at temperatures below minus 50oC. The breakthrough was made possible through the utilization of micro-chemical technology, which holds great promise for innovation in chemical processes. Research was conducted by Ube Industries in partnership with two other groups. The first partner is the Research Association of Micro Chemical Process Technology*3 (Chairman: Takashi Takeuchi). The second partner is the Kyoto Intensive Research Center's Technology Research Group for Micro-Chemical Plants (Group Leader: Professor Junichi Yoshida, Kyoto University), which is part of the Advanced Research Institute of Micro Chemical Systems at the Katsura Int'tech Center, a component of the Graduate School of Engineering at Kyoto University.

The research was commissioned by the Production, Analysis and Measurement System for Microchemical Technology (Project Leader: Hiroshi Komiyama, President, University of Tokyo). The project is part of the Technology to Create Innovative Components program at the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Until now, Swern oxidation has been conducted by maintaining reactants at a temperature below minus 50oC, in order to avoid decomposition of unstable intermediate. The dramatic effect of the micro-scale flow system seems to be attributable to precise temperature control and extremely fast and efficient mixing by virtue of a short diffusion path in the micro-mixer. Short residence time also seems to play a crucial role because fast transfer of the reactive intermediate to the next reactor seems to be essential for the present transformation. The breakthrough has enabled Ube Industries and its partners to develop technology for chemical reaction at room temperature, while achieving equivalent or better reaction performance compared with low temperature conditions.

By utilizing the rapid mixing and precise time and temperature control of micro-chemical technology, the new research paves the way for room temperature reaction, where low temperature conditions were previously required. Ube Industries expects that the technology will have a major impact on synthetic chemistry equipment, while also contributing significantly to improvements in safety and a wide range of environmental considerations.

The Production, Analysis and Measurement System for the Microchemical Technology Project will conduct R&D to expand the application of the new technology to various chemical reactions including other unstable intermediates. In addition, R&D will be targeted at manufacturing methods for pharmaceutical intermediates and other fine chemicals.

The research results were announced on March 10, 2005 in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition journal, for publication on April 15, 2005.

Swern oxidation
The mild oxidation of alkohols to aldehydes or ketones.

Micro-chemical technology
Technology utilizing minute microspaces to conduct chemical reactions while enabling fast, highly precise handling of liquids.

Research Association of Micro Chemical Process Technology


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