The product of this biphasic reaction is not soluble in either the organic solvent on top or the aqueous layer at the bottom. As the reaction proceeded, the product precipitated, collecting at the interface between the layers. Meanwhile, copper sulfate from the reaction’s catalyst accumulated at the bottom, forming spindly crystals that look like skeletal fingers reaching up from the depths. Excess starting material and other impurities stay dissolved. Matthew Holland, the chemist who ran the reaction and took this photo, is a medicinal chemistry doctoral student in the Brennan group at the University of Oxford. He’s working on software to predict new bioactive molecules for drug discovery. The molecule he made in this reaction is a precursor to a compound that his software predicted for inhibiting the main protease of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Submitted by Matthew Holland. Follow him on Twitter @matthewhollandm.
Do science. Take pictures. Win money. Enter our photo contest here.