Also in this week's Chemical and Engineering News, a cover article from Leigh Krietsch Boerner on metal-free reactions and the papers that (claim to) report them:
The reaction to synthetic chemist Hua-Jian Xu’s article started like a dripping faucet.
Nature Catalysis published Xu’s paper online on Jan. 18, 2021 (DOI: 10.1038/s41929-020-00564-z), and over the next few days, there were a handful of mentions on Twitter. By Jan. 27, these drips had started to puddle, and then to pool.
Chemists did not believe the claims the authors were making.
In the paper, Xu and his colleagues reported a way to form new carbon-carbon bonds via the popular Suzuki reaction, also known as Suzuki-Miyaura coupling. Historically, this reaction has required a palladium catalyst; Xu’s group claimed to have done the chemistry without the metal. Organic chemists have long sought a metal-free Suzuki reaction because Pd is expensive. Also, discovering metal-free coupling reactions would be an intellectual milestone for synthetic chemists.
One of the early Twitter skeptics was Robin Bedford, a catalytic chemist at the University of Bristol. When a colleague sent him a copy of the paper, Bedford felt some déjà vu. “It was a sense of ‘Here we go again,’ ” Bedford says.
I didn't realize how many articles had reported a metal-free reaction, but it sure is a lot! Read the whole thing, it's pretty remarkable.