Barbier-Grignard reactions were discovered more than a century ago, but with the advent of green chemistry, researchers are still considering ways to improve this useful set of organic synthesis methods. Feng Zhou and Chao-Jun Li of McGill University, in Montreal, have done so by developing a procedure for carrying out the first Barbier-Grignard direct arylation of carbonyls in water using unactivated aryl halides (Nat. Commun. 2014, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5254). Barbier-Grignard chemistry normally involves using a metal to couple an alkyl halide with the carbonyl group of a partner to form an alcohol. Li’s group previously developed aqueous Barbier-Grignard reactions, but a carbonyl arylation with an unactivated aryl halide is unprecedented. In the new reaction, Zhou and Li coupled iodobenzenes with various aldehydes using zinc dust and a rhodium catalyst. The aqueous method bypasses several challenges encountered with conventional Barbier-Grignard reactions, such as strict exclusion of moisture and air and protection-deprotection of acidic hydrogens of the reactants. “The reaction thereby creates a safer, more convenient, and more environmentally benign strategy to access diarylmethanols and aryl alkyl alcohols, which are ubiquitous skeletons found in fine chemicals, biologically active molecules, and pharmaceuticals,” the researchers note.