One Soai reaction, two mechanisms?

Yannick Geiger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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For over 25 years the chemistry community has puzzled over the mechanism of the Soai reaction, a fascinating chemical process which achieves chiral symmetry breaking by combining autocatalysis with asymmetric amplification. In 2020, the groups of Denmark and Trapp each made a proposal, based on extensive experimental work, on what is the catalytic species there: either a tetrameric product alkoxide aggregate (“SMS tetramer”) or a product-substrate dimer (“hemiacetal”). These models seemingly oppose and exclude each other; however, they might also be both valid since the studies were conducted on different substrates which are not necessarily equivalent. This is shown in this Viewpoint by an in-depth comparison of the two studies and of data from earlier reports, which opens up to a discussion on this scenario's far-reaching implications on the fundamental understanding of asymmetry-amplifying autocatalysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1206-1211
Number of pages6
JournalChemical Society Reviews
Issue number4
Early online date24-Jan-2022
Publication statusPublished - 21-Feb-2022


  • Soai Reaction
  • Autocatalysis
  • Asymmetric amplification
  • dialkylzinc reagents
  • Reaction mechanism
  • origin of biological homochirality
  • Origin of life

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