Can the analyte-triggered asymmetric autocatalytic Soai reaction serve as a universal analytical tool for measuring enantiopurity and assigning absolute configuration?
An investigation is reported on the use of the autocatalytic enantioselective Soai reaction, known to be influenced by the presence of a wide variety of chiral materials, as a generic tool for measuring the enantiopurity and absolute configuration of any substance. Good generality for the reaction across a small group of test analytes was observed, consistent with literature reports suggesting a diversity of compound types that can influence the stereochemical outcome of this reaction. Some trends in the absolute sense of stereochemical enrichment were noted, suggesting the possible utility of the approach for assigning absolute configuration to unknown compounds, by analogy to closely related species with known outcomes. Considerable variation was observed in the triggering strength of different enantiopure materials, an undesirable characteristic when dealing with mixtures containing minor impurities with strong triggering strength in the presence of major components with weak triggering strength. A strong tendency of the reaction toward an ‘all or none’ type of behavior makes the reaction most sensitive for detecting enantioenrichment close to zero. Consequently, the ability to discern modest from excellent enantioselectivity was relatively poor. While these properties limit the ability to obtain precise enantiopurity measurements in a simple single addition experiment, prospects may exist for more complex experimental setups that may potentially offer improved performance.