Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain
the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in
Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles
Electrification promotes tricky synthetic chemical reactions
Chemical synthesis often relies on reactions catalysed by transition metals. Electrochemical methods have now been developed that negate this need, opening up pathways to previously challenging reactions.
The formation of bonds between carbon atoms is key to the synthesis of molecules used in diverse applications, including pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and materials. However, it remains challenging to join together carbon atoms that are connected to four other atoms (known as sp3-hybridized carbon atoms). The coupling of carbon atoms that are connected to three other atoms (sp2-hybridized carbon atoms) is more straightforward and better established. But the coupling of sp3-hybridized carbon atoms produces molecules that have greater three-dimensionality than do molecules produced by the coupling of sp2-hybridized carbons, which are flatter. Having such three-dimensionality improves the success of drug molecules in clinical trials1, and so efforts to overcome these challenges are clearly worthwhile. Writing in Nature, Zhang et al.2 report an electrochemical method for the formation of carbon–carbon bonds from reagents containing sp3-hybridized carbons.