Ibuprofen is one of the four
commonly used painkillers. The original method for making it used
six steps, with aluminium chloride (AlCl3) as a catalyst, and
several other reagents. Although behaving as a catalyst, the AlCl3
cannot be recovered, and must be disposed of.
A newer method uses two true
catalysts, hydrogen fluoride and Raney Nickel (an alloy of nickel
and aluminium). These can be recovered and re-used many times.
The effect of using better
catalysts has been to improve the atom
economy of the process, and reduce the number of steps needed
from six to three.