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Five creative ways to increase productivity in organic synthesis

September 12, 2018 at 10:36 PM / by John Urh

Creative productivity

Creative productivity is the ability to find innovative ways to keep projects moving forward, including finding a way around the roadblocks that will inevitably show up as you go. So the real measure of productivity is not in molecules per day, but in your ability to find the synthetic pathway. Instrument manufacturers tend to want to tell you about the latest user-friendly ultra-fast instrument. Faster is nicer, but if you can cut 30 seconds off a column chromatography step, what does it matter when the reaction refluxed overnight and the reaction didn’t work? The thing is, many of the reliable techniques you apply to your organic chemistry work are considered unchangeable. There may be a better way, but that takes time and feels risky. So, you continue on, using what you learned as far back as college chemistry.

Creative productivity unshackled

Changing one step in the synthesis can have a cascade of both positive and negative impacts. The search for positive impacts demands a willingness to take a risk and innovate. The journey is even more likely to succeed when you have a partner to help you in following a new path, a reliable path, a shorter path. Let’s look at five ways to succeed through new thinking.

Creative approaches can help boost productivity in pharmaceutical research, including better work up, using flash column chromatography, and smaller columns with less solvent

1. Creative productivity by getting the most out of techniques

Just knowing how to better run your equipment is a great place to start. The first stop along the way may be acquiring a deeper knowledge of techniques such as flash column chromatography. Armed with such knowledge you can think more broadly and get more out of your available tools. That knowledge helps you to be more confident and more productive.

2. Work-up productivity

The work up process can take hours out of your day. So it can greatly impact your productivity when you find a way to simplify this process or eliminate steps. You may just accept the fact you have to do liquid-liquid extractions or spend an afternoon trying to get your compound out of DMF or DMSO. Have you considered using simplified dry loading techniques or the more advanced evaporators? What if DMSO or DMF were as easy to remove as hexane? How would that change how your approach your synthetic protocol? Consider what would happen if you could consistently adsorb your compounds onto silica and produce a free flowing powder that didn’t need to be scraped off a round bottom flask. Wouldn’t that make for a more productive day? In coming articles, we will reveal how these approaches to work up have become a reality.

3. Purification productivity with flash column chromatography

What if you could confidently choose the column size and capacity? So often we have seen chemists use over-sized columns simply because they knew they had a challenging separation. The educated guess approach is no match for the confidence you can have when you know that you have chosen the correct sized column. How much more productive would you be if you started using flash chromatography columns that are half the size you are using now? How would your work be affected if you used half as much of everything and still routinely and confidently produced pure compounds? What if that confidence increased to the point that you no longer need to baby-sit your flash column chromatography system? How many successful purifications would it take before you were willing to walk away and let the automated flash chromatography system just do its thing?

4. Productivity through more multi-tasking

Automation doesn’t make you more productive unless you trust it. Confidence in reliably automated equipment frees you to spend your time on more productive work, such as designing the next reaction. In short, leave the automated things to machines, and don’t bother to baby-sit your flash chromatography system. You wanted to be a creative productive chemist, so you should make sure you are free to focus on the next reaction.

5. Productivity through evaporation

One of the results of using columns that are half the size is that you have half the solvent to remove from your collected fractions. What if you needed to load only half the volume of solvent into your rotary evaporator? What impact would it have on the size of glassware you use? What about the amount of solvent you use for liquid-liquid extractions? Would it be beneficial if the collected fractions were more concentrated? What about simple stuff? For example, you would make half as many trips to the solvent locker and you would reduce the amount of waste generated by half.

In the next article in this series we will look into how productivity can be improved in more detail and where you can find more specific information. You can also download a poster on this topic from the link below.

Topics: flash chromatography, Flash column chromatography

John Urh

Written by John Urh

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Download the poster ‘Strategies for Improving Flash Chromatography Efficiency’

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