The team from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tokyo report their new method - which uses a novel iron catalyst - can not only simplify organic synthesis but would greatly reduce costs and cut down on waste products.

The list is endless: fuels, medicines, foods, detergents, solvents, plastics and of course life itself.

These processes have financial and material costs which Professor Eiichi Nakamura, principal investigator of the study, aims to cut.

"It's intriguing how on one hand it's cheap, abundant and nontoxic, but on the other hand it's difficult to control iron's catalytic ability due to its complex electronic behavior."

What Nakamura and colleagues have done is to fine-tune a first-of-its-kind iron catalyst so that it selects which C-H bonds to combine and which bond pairings to reject.

"Our group has investigated the reactivity of iron catalysts for over 10 years," continued Nakamura.

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