Applying green chemistry to the photochemical route to artemisinin

Zacharias Amara, Jessica F.B. Bellamy, Raphael Horvath, Samuel J. Miller, Andrew Beeby, Andreas Burgard, Kai Rossen, Martyn Poliakoff, Michael W. George

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

142 Citations (Scopus)


Artemisinin is an important antimalarial drug, but, at present, the environmental and economic costs of its semi-synthetic production are relatively high. Most of these costs lie in the final chemical steps, which follow a complex acid- and photo-catalysed route with oxygenation by both singlet and triplet oxygen. We demonstrate that applying the principles of green chemistry can lead to innovative strategies that avoid many of the problems in current photochemical processes. The first strategy combines the use of liquid CO 2 as solvent and a dual-function solid acid/photocatalyst. The second strategy is an ambient-temperature reaction in aqueous mixtures of organic solvents, where the only inputs are dihydroartemisinic acid, O 2 and light, and the output is pure, crystalline artemisinin. Everything else - solvents, photocatalyst and aqueous acid - can be recycled. Some aspects developed here through green chemistry are likely to have wider application in photochemistry and other reactions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)489-495
Number of pages7
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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