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Electric fields as catalysts in chemical manufacture

We are looking for an early stage industry collaboration partner to further develop and test the technology with a view to a commercial licence of the intellectual property.

Contact our IP Commercialisation Business Development Manager:

Roger Plumb
Tel: +61 8 9266 4925

Summary of technology

A large number of chemical reactions require a catalyst for them to proceed at a practical rate. To date, these catalysts have been chemical materials or metallic particles. This technology utilises electrical fields as the catalyst. This is particularly applicable in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. Many biologically active molecules are chiral – they have two distinct mirror images or enantiomers, one of which is useful and the other toxic – and it has been demonstrated that an oriented electric field catalyses the production of the desirable enantiomer only.


This platform technology has the potential to:

  • enable the cost-effective production of certain chemicals, by reducing the temperature and/or concentration required for a reasonable chemical reaction rate
  • reduce the environmental impact associated with the use of traditional catalysts
  • solve the complex ‘chiral impurity’ problem that is a major issue in the pharmaceutical industry.


Dr Nadim Darwish and Dr Simone Ciampi are researchers from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University. Dr Darwish specialises in material engineering and Dr Ciampi specialises in electrochemistry. Their work has been funded by the Australian Research Council.

Stage of development

The concept has been validated on a very small scale, demonstrated on a type of Diels-Alder reaction, which is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry and which is currently extremely inefficient. Work is continuing to scale up the technology and to apply it to the classic SN2 reaction used to build and modify many pharmaceuticals and other useful organic materials.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is owned by Curtin University. There is the potential to protect many aspects of the process.