On water reactions are a group of organic reactions that take place in water emulsions, and which have an unusually accelerated reaction-rate compared to the same reaction in an organic solvent or corresponding dry media. Source Wikipedia
The notion of the special nature of water as a solvent for organic reactions began with examples of Dielsâ€“Alder reactions more than fifty years ago. The first quantitative data were reported by Rideout and Breslow, who showed that Dielsâ€“Alder reactions between nonpolar compounds proceeded at much higher rates in water (dilute homogeneous solution) than in organic solvents. Rate accelerations as high as 200-fold were noted in certain cases.â€ś
â€śOn Waterâ€ť: Unique Reactivity of Organic Compounds in Aqueous Suspension Angewandte Chemie, Volume 44, Issue 21 May 20, 2005
There is a growing list of organic chemical reactions which have been shown to have considerable acceleration 'on water'. It's speculated that the unique properties of molecules at the macroscopic phase-boundary between water and insoluble hydrophobic oils might play a role - but these effects are yet to have a formally accepted explanation.
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