Chemical synthesis

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In chemistry, chemical synthesis (chemical combination) is the artificial execution of chemical reactions to obtain one or several products. [1] This occurs by physical and chemical manipulations usually involving one or more reactions. In modern laboratory uses, the process is reproducible and reliable.


A chemical synthesis involves one or more compounds (known as reagents or reactants) that will experience a transformation when subjected to certain conditions. Various reaction types can be applied to formulate a desired product. This requires mixing the compounds in a reaction vessel, such as a chemical reactor or a simple round-bottom flask. Many reactions require some form of processing ("work-up") or purification procedure to isolate the final product. [1]

The amount produced by chemical synthesis is known as the reaction yield . Typically, yields are expressed as a mass in grams (in a laboratory setting) or as a percentage of the total theoretical quantity that could be produced based on the limiting reagent. A side reaction is an unwanted chemical reaction occurring which reduces the desired yield. The word synthesis was used first in a chemical context by the chemist Hermann Kolbe. [2]


Many strategies exist in chemical synthesis that are more complicated than simply converting a reactant A to a reaction product B directly. For multistep synthesis, a chemical compound is synthesized by a series of individual chemical reactions, each with its own work-up. [3] For example, a laboratory synthesis of paracetamol can consist of three sequential parts. For cascade reactions, multiple chemical transformations occur within a single reactant, for multi-component reactions as many as 11 different reactants form a single reaction product and for a "telescopic synthesis" one reactant experiences multiple transformations without isolation of intermediates.

Organic synthesis

Organic synthesis is a special type of chemical synthesis dealing with the synthesis of organic compounds. For the total synthesis of a complex product, multiple procedures in sequence may be required to synthesize the product of interest, requiring a large amount of time. Skill in organic synthesis is prized among chemists and the synthesis of exceptionally valuable or difficult compounds has won chemists such as Robert Burns Woodward a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. If a chemical synthesis starts from basic laboratory compounds, it is considered a purely synthetic process. If it starts from a product isolated from plants or animals and then proceeds to new compounds, the synthesis is described as a semisynthetic process.

Inorganic synthesis

Inorganic synthesis and organometallic synthesis are applied to the preparation of compounds with significant non-organic content. An illustrative example is the preparation of the anti-cancer drug cisplatin from potassium tetrachloroplatinate. [4]

Cisplatin synthesis.svg

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  1. 1 2 Vogel, A.I.; Tatchell, A.R.; Furnis, B.S.; Hannaford, A.J.; Smith, P.W.G. (1996). Vogel's Textbook of Practical Organic Chemistry (5th ed.). Prentice Hall. ISBN   0-582-46236-3.
  2. Kolbe, H. (1845). "Beiträge zur Kenntniss der gepaarten Verbindungen". Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie. 54 (2): 145–188. doi:10.1002/jlac.18450540202. ISSN   0075-4617. Archived from the original on Jun 30, 2023 via Zenodo.
  3. Carey, Francis A.; Sundberg, Richard J. (2013). Advanced Organic Chemistry Part B: Reactions and Synthesis. Springer.
  4. Alderden, Rebecca A.; Hall, Matthew D.; Hambley, Trevor W. (1 May 2006). "The Discovery and Development of Cisplatin". J. Chem. Educ. 83 (5): 728. Bibcode:2006JChEd..83..728A. doi:10.1021/ed083p728.