The use of electrochemistry can prevent the use of dangerous, toxic, or expensive chemicals and materials, resulting in greatly reduced (toxic) waste production. Moreover, renewable sources of electricity can be used, which could eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels for energy in the chemical industry. The challenge is to merge the fields of organic chemistry and electrochemistry, which have traditionally evolved along separate lines.
In modern organic electrosynthesis, electricity is used to give electrons to molecules in solution, or to remove electrons from molecules in solution, which then enables desired reactivity. The aim of this proposal is to simply use electric potential as a driving force to accelerate or enable certain organic reactions without the exchange of electrons with the solution, which represents a fundamentally new way of using electricity in chemical reactions. An advantage of this approach is that pure solvents (including water) can be used without the addition of conducting salts, which are typically required in electrochemical reactions. Thus, the waste generation of these chemical reactions can be reduced even further.
The future of organic synthesis is electrochemical, and this proposal expands the toolkit of electrochemical reactions into a new area that will surely see more activity in the coming years.