Mechanically Throwing a Reaction into Reverse

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Science  16 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6049, pp. 1582-1583
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210892

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When synthetic chemists are confronted with sluggish chemical transformations, they typically try to make the reaction go faster by increasing the temperature, pumping in more photons, or turning to specially designed catalysts. In many cases, these solutions also lead to unwanted side products that waste valuable reactants, which has led to a search for simpler strategies for speeding up chemical reactions. On page 1606 of this issue, Brantley et al. (1) report the selective activation of covalent bonds through mechanical force and observed totally different reactivity compared with thermal or photochemical activation of the same reaction. By pushing, or in this case literally pulling, the reactions down different pathways, they explore novel concepts for synthesizing organic molecules.