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1-Butanol as a solvent for efficient extraction of polar compounds from aqueous medium: theoretical and practical aspects

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The extraction of polar molecules from aqueous solution is a challenging task in organic synthesis. 1-Butanol has been used sporadically as an eluent for polar molecules, but it is unclear which molecular features drive its efficiency. Here, we employ free energy simulations to study the partitioning of 15 solutes between water and 1-butanol. The simulations demonstrate that the high affinity of polar molecules to the wet 1-butanol phase is associated with its nanostructure. Small inverse micelles of water are able to accommodate polar solutes and locally mimic an aqueous environment. We verify the simulations based on partition coefficients between water and 1-octanol, and include a blind prediction of the water/1-butanol partition coefficient of cyclohexane-1,2-diol. The calculations are in excellent agreement with experiment, reaching root-mean-square deviations below 0.7 kcal/mol. Actual extractions of cyclohexane-1,2-diol from buffer solutions that mimic cell lysates and suspensions in biocatalytic reactions further exemplify our findings. The yields highlight that extractions with 1-butanol can be significantly more efficient than the conventional protocol based on ethyl acetate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6975-6988
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Volume122
Issue number27
Early online date13 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2018

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