Sustainable “green” Chemistry


What are the benefits and challenges of using water as a solvent?

The advantages of using water as a solvent are numerous: water is plentiful, environmentally benign, spans a wide range of temperatures while in the liquid phase, and cuts down on waste. Of course, if there weren’t also some challenges to making it work, we would just be using it for every reaction. A primary challenge of using water is that many compounds are either unstable or insoluble in water. Additionally, many reactions that were developed in organic solvents do not proceed similarly under aqueous conditions for a variety of reasons, so the majority of existing knowledge surrounding organic synthesis (most of which was developed under non-aqueous conditions) often cannot be directly applied to reactivity under aqueous conditions. Water can also be difficult to remove from reactions relative to many organic solvents due to its higher boiling point. Since the advent of green chemistry the amount of research into aqueous synthesis has skyrocketed, and significant progress is being made every day toward the use of water for a growing number of synthetic applications.


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