Principle #2 Atom Economy

Monique Fatmous

What is Atom Economy

Atom Economy was developed by Barry Trost. It is based around the efficiency of chemical reactions to see how much of the reactants make up the final product and how much is gone to waste.

It tests the effect of the reaction, with high atom economies having little waste of reactants while low atom economies have high waste of reactants.

The aim of this is to improve the efficiency of chemical reactions in order to use fewer natural resources and minimize waste.

The need for better atom economy is on the rise. 97% of all processes that occur on earth require a chemical reaction. Of these reactions, a vast majority of the reactants go to waste, having a tremendous impact on the environment and essentially, on us.

Percent atom economy

The percent atom economy is the formula weight of the desired products, divided by the sum of the formula weights of all the reactants, multiplied by 100.
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Applications of atom economy- Production of Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is the 2nd most used pain killer in the world and use been modified by Green Chemistry to make it more affordable, more efficiently made and more environmentally friendly.

in 1993, the chemical processing of Ibuprofen was reinvented in order to increase its atom economy and reduce waste. Chemists did this by adding a catalyst to the reaction, rather than excess reactants that end up as waste. This allows for the catalyst to be recycled and reused, making it more cost efficient.

By applying a catalyst, chemists have been able to decrease the number of stages within manufacturing and eliminate toxic solvents such as Carbon tetrachloride from the process.

The Final percent atom economy of Ibuprofen has increased from 40% to 80-99%, an outstanding improvement for the environment.


  • Increases the efficiency of chemical reactions
  • Decreases the amount of waste produced from reactions
  • Reduces the amount of toxic by-products
  • Helps to ensure the sustainability of the product
  • More cost efficient, making products cheaper for consumers and manufacturers