Inventing new methods and tools with less energy to manipulate chemical bonds
Catalytic transformations stand at the forefront of chemistry – these reactions can significantly reduce the input of energy to manipulate chemical bonds opening up novel reaction pathways. Cutting-edge research is focused on developing novel homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts derived from organic and inorganic molecules as well as atomically defined solid-solution interfaces. Knowledge gained through these studies will allow for increased efficiency in the production of new medicines, activation of chemical species and the conversion of solar energy. See more faculty interested in this theme »
Saving our planet, one electron at a time
Professor Dennis Peters and his research group have recently reported the remediation of a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) via the use of electrogenerated nickel(I) and cobalt(I) catalysts which can completely dechlorinate a CFC, thereby eliminating from the environment a compound that can destroy the ozone layer. For example, 1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC-113) can be converted quantitatively into trifluoroethene. In addition, if such catalytic processes are carried out in the presence of carbon dioxide, the dechlorinated anionic intermediates can be trapped as fluorinated carboxylic acids, which serve as feedstocks for commercially viable syntheses. Other work is focusing on the use of catalytically active silver cathodes to promote the facile dehalogenation of environmental pollutants such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids that arise from the disinfection of drinking water by chlorine.
Read more: (1) “Cyclic Voltammetric and Spectrophotometric Investigation of the Catalytic Reduction of 1,1,2-Trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC-113) by Electrogenerated Cobalt(I) Salen in Dimethylformamide Saturated with Carbon Dioxide,” Dennis Peters et al., J. Electroanal. Chem. 2011, 661, 39; (2) "Direct and Nickel(I) Salen-catalyzed Reduction of 1,1,2-Trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC-113) in Dimethylformamide,” Dennis Peters et al., J. Electroanal. Chem. 2012, 676, 6.
A new study to combine advantages of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysts...
...is underway in the laboratories of Prof. Steve Tait. Graduate student researchers are working with atomic-resolution scanning probe microscopes and supersonic molecular beams to study the self-assembly and reactivity of novel metal—organic complexes on chemically complementary surfaces. These systems could potentially improve energy efficiency in critical industrial and energy supply processes. Fundamental questions in this study include the selectivity and tunability of the surface-supported complexes (see figure), as well as protocols for efficient assembly of robust structures. This work is currently supported by the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences Division, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.
Catalytic incorporation of CO2 into organic molecules
Carbon dioxide is one of the most abundant and inexpensive carbon sources available, rendering it attractive as a feedstock chemical. Despite this potential, however, efficient chemical reactions that incorporate this simple molecule into organic compounds are rather limited. Professor Kevin Brown and his group have initiated a program of research focused on inventing novel reactions and catalysts that will facilitate the introduction of CO2 into organic frameworks. These studies will ultimately render fine chemicals cheaper and introduce novel chemical reactions that will facilitate the synthesis of new biologically important molecules.