Research Highlight

Nano saviour for drug industry

Biplab Das

doi:10.1038/nindia.2008.232 Published online 26 June 2008

An Indian research team has devised a chemical trick to produce nanoparticles of palladium. Working as catalyst, the nanoparticles aid in the production of essential organic compounds needed to make commercial pharmaceutical products1.

Palladium is an inexpensive metallic catalyst. But very few studies have been done on this material. During hydrogenation, organic compound Chloronitrobenzene is converted to chloroaniline, which is used to produce commercial pharmaceutical products. The process yields byproducts like nitrobenzene and aniline.

To maximize the yield of chloroaniline and minimize the production of nitrobenzene and aniline, the researchers took a porous chemical known as MCM-41 (mobile composition of matter 41) and mixed it with palladium containing yellow solution. The efficacy of this lab-synthesized palladium complex (catalyst 1) was compared with commercial palladium catalyst on carbon particles (catalyst 2).

During hydrogenation of nitrochlorobenzene, the palladium nanoparticles are generated. The study found that catalyst 2 produced more undesirable byproduct than catalyst 1. Unlike catalyst 2, in catalyst 1, the pores of MCM-41 restrict the mobility of palladium nanoparticles, which is the key to longer life and selectivity of the nanoparticles. "Efficient hydrogenation of chloronitrobenzene is a reaction of considerable industrial importance as it produces chloroaniline, an essential chemical to yield pharmaceutical products," says lead researcher Goutam Kumar Lahiri. As palladium is cheaper than platinum, there is an urgent need for the development of such selective palladium catalysts, Lahiri says.

The authors of this work are from: Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, Mumbai, India; Reliance Industries Limited, Swastik Mills Compound, Mumbai and Catalysis Division and Central NMR Facility, National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, India.


  1. Maity, N. et al. MCM-41-Supported Organometallic-Derived Nanopalladium as a Selective Hydrogenation Catalyst. J. Phys. Chem. C. 112, 9428-9433, (2008)