Organic Synthesis - A Branch Of Chemical Synthesis


"Organic synthesis" is a predominant scientific method. Its role in the manufacturing field of chemicals is profound. Especially it is a boon to the pharmaceutical industry. Organic synthesis enables scientists to construct an organic molecule in the laboratory. This technique reduced the dependency on natural resources.

Introduction to Organic Synthesis

We need many organic compounds in our daily life for various purposes. But all of them are not readily available in nature.

We have to prepare them by synthesizing naturally available resources, i.e., organic or inorganic compounds.

The main principle involved in the organic synthesis is breaking or forming of chemical bonds in chemical compounds in a controlled way.

The basic idea is to deal with the carbon framework of a target molecule. It is a wonderful science of building complex molecules.

The core purpose of organic synthesis is to develop a molecule with different synthetic routes. This brings ease in the business and pulls down the costs at a manageable level.

The primary reason for the affordable prices of pharmaceutical drugs or medicines is the development of organic synthesis in chemistry.

The Rise of Organic Synthesis

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The thought of "chemical reaction" took form almost 250 years back. A significant study was conducted on the subject of chemical reactions, first on gases, in the 18th century.

Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele identified Oxygen during this study. Quantification of chemical processes was also started in the same period of time and the whole world is indebted forever to the French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier for his dedicated work.

  Organic synthesis consists of multiple individual reactions and multiple stages in a sequence. "Synthetic route" is the commonly used word to represent the whole process of organic synthesis.

The same compound can be prepared in different synthetic routes. Knowledge of the reaction mechanism and a thorough understanding of chemical structures are key factors to produce compounds at an industrial level.

The pharmaceutical industry is manufacturing many of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) of the pharmaceutical drugs by organic synthesis method.

The First Organic Compound by Organic Synthesis


Life is always full of wonders. We don’t know which leads to what and when. Some of the things happen accidentally and later on, they will turn into a great glory of the world. One of such wonders happened in the life of a German chemist, Friedrich W√∂hler, in 1828.

He mixed silver cyanate and ammonium chloride with the intention to prepare ammonium cyanate. Surprisingly, he obtained Urea which has the same molecular formula as ammonium cyanate. Urea is the first compound produced through organic synthesis.

Ammonium cyanate is an inorganic compound and Urea is an organic compound. In fact, Ammonium cyanate is an isomer of Urea.

The Operations Involved in Organic Synthesis


In general, reactions are two types. 1. Acid-base reactions and 2. Oxidation-reduction reactions.

Construction of the desired molecule requires to perform multiple operations to bring it into the concrete form.

Some of them are Filtration, distillation, pH adjustment, isolation, decomposition, polymerization, substitution, elimination, addition, separation and crystallization.

Chemical reactions need high energies to break or combine molecules. Hence, the use of elevated temperatures is an unavoidable thing in the process if you want to achieve the targeted compound.

For some reactions, it may be an essential thing to carry out the reaction at 900°C sometimes and it depends solely upon the goal you set to reach. Hence safety is a big concern in the chemical industry as the experimental work needs much higher temperatures.

The Process of Organic Synthesis


Organic synthesis starts with simple compounds. The "starting material" is the one which begins the reaction, i.e., the very first compound.

The length of the process may be from two steps to 50 steps long or higher, based on the target molecule's complex structure. The reaction starts sequentially from the first step to the final step until the target molecule's structure is achieved. In between, an "intermediate" forms at each step.

Functional groups play an important role in achieving stable intermediate compounds. The art of blocking and activating these groups determines the quality and cost of the product. Why, because some functional groups in intermediates may require protection from undesired reactions. In such cases, incorporate some protective groups and remove later on in subsequent steps.

A number of named chemical reactions are available to materialize the desired molecule. Every chemistry student study, these reactions in their organic chemistry courses at universities. Grignard, Friedel–Crafts, Gattermann–Koch, Wittig reactions and Claisen condensations are some illustrations.

Retrosynthesis is normally used for the troubleshooting of an organic synthesis. In this process, chemist starts from the structure of the target molecule and goes back to the starting material breaking the reaction into small segments. This is nothing but a deconstruction of the target molecule.

If you want more knowledge on reactions visit the site Organic Chemistry Portal

The Role of Chemical Engineering Division in Organic Synthesis

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There is no chemical industry without Chemical engineering. It is a core part of the industry. R&D and chemical engineering are the two sides of the same coin. You cannot separate them.

Once the process of organic synthesis is finalized, R&D chemist prepares the target molecule in small quantities in a laboratory. If everything goes well and the target molecule forms with the expected quality and yield, then it goes for the commercial scale in the plant. From this point, the division of chemical engineering starts to play its role.

Chemical engineers must take into account the aspects of safety and quality along with the consideration of higher volume while designing the chemical reactors.

If the reactors are not capable enough to handle the energy, generated in the form of excessive heat and pressure during the reaction, fatal incidents may happen.

Designing a plant to meet the predetermined volumes requires a lot of engineering skills and planning. Crystallization units, dryers and evaporators should be designed perfectly according to the needs and business demands.

Imperfection in the design of the plant leads to the poor quality and yield of the product. Sometimes fatal accidents may occur.

Chemical engineers should ensure safe operations in the plant along with the consistency in the quality of a product. They have to play a crucial role in the critical activities such as purification, crystallization, size control and extraction of organic compounds.


Organic synthesis consists of multiple steps in its process. An intermediate would form at each step of the reaction. Stability of the intermediates is a key factor in accomplishing the desired molecule.

The same compound can be prepared by different synthetic routes. Retrosynthesis works as a troubleshooting mechanism in the process.

Chemical reactions may need elevated temperatures to produce any target molecule. Hence safety is a big concern in the industry.

Chemical engineering takes care of this part by designing suitable reactors. Designing a plant, inline with the business needs, is the responsibility of the chemical engineering division.

The pharmaceutical industry is using organic synthesis method to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) since its inception.

Both Chemical and pharmaceutical industries are using this concept to produce products for commercial purposes.

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Ram Kumar Reddy

Ram Kumar Reddy is the founder of Pharma Times Now. Helping students of Pharmacy and Chemistry and employees in pharma industry in learning pharmaceutical scince. Ram Kumar Reddy has 24 years rich experience in Pharmaceutical industry and well versed in quality systems. He worked with Dr.Reddys and Sai Life Sciences. He lives in Hyderabad, India.