I want to do an experiment to investigate factors affecting the synthesis of chiral molecules. The only problem is, my institution doesn't have much money, and it seems like the chemicals required for any experiment involving chiral molecules are very expensive!

My initial research found an experiment based on the Bürgi-Dunitz trajectory (see Addition to Carbonyl Double Bonds), but with the use of L-Selectride it isn't the cheapest. I then researched the Diels-Alder reaction, but the conjugated dienes are also relatively expensive, or are only available in large quantities!

I am only an amateur in the field of chemistry, and much of the interesting material is very hard to find unless one knows the specific terms to use. Now I come to you for help - are there any cheap experiments involving the synthesis of enantiomers? Other than cost, the constraints are:

  • Equipment: standard laboratory equipment is available, but nothing too fancy
  • Aim: the experiment needs to investigate something, for example factors affecting the synthesis of L and D enantiomers. Two different chiral auxilliaries or catalysts would do well here.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you trying to run a reaction that generates a single enantiomer of a compound? If so, you also need to think about how you are going to measure the ratio of enantiomers. $\endgroup$
    – jerepierre
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Xenopathic Does your institution have a polarimeter? Is the experiment for you or for students, if the latter, what grade level? $\endgroup$
    – ron
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @ron Yes, a polarimeter is available. The experiment is for me, at A-level (equivalent to APs in the US) $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2014 at 13:02

1 Answer 1


If you have some way of measuring the enantiomeric excess of the product mixture, I suggest trying proline catalysis of an aldol reaction. The materials are cheap / readily available, and the reaction setup is straightforward. Proline is probably the cheapest chiral catalyst available.

Here is a procedure for an organic chemistry lab run at Rutgers that might get you started: http://chem.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/coursefiles/Courses_f09/310/Procedure_Proline_Catalysis.pdf

  • $\begingroup$ After lots more research, this seems to fit the requirements perfectly! $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2014 at 11:28

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