New Strategies for Catalysis
Our research program focuses on the development of new synthetic methodologies utilizing homogeneous catalysts. We also seek to study reaction mechanisms involved in catalysis, which will allow us to design new catalysts, optimize their structures, and apply their functions to key challenges in organic chemistry. The study of superior catalysts will also facilitate the development of new sustainable strategies in target molecule synthesis.
1. Design of Homogeneous Catalysts
Switchable catalysts offer the possibility to activate organic molecules selectively and adaptively in a regio- and stereocontrolled manner. We guide our rational design of new organic and organometallic catalyst scaffolds with computational and analytical studies, enabling us to develop structures with defined 3D architectures that can be manipulated by simple external stimuli. The resultant catalysts will then be utilized to rapidly diversify molecules for biological testing, including for the identification of new antiviral agents, and to facilitate the automated synthesis of complex biomolecules. We also use switching to control the helical chirality of polymers for catalysis and material applications.
2. Optimization of Catalyst Structures
The optimization and prediction of catalytic activity in homogeneous catalysis remains challenging due to the many variables that need to be controlled, all of which influence each other. These subtle, and yet complex, effects are exacerbated in examples where multiple different organic and/or organometallic catalysts react within the same mixture. We apply tools from physical organic chemistry and data science to develop new strategies for catalyst optimization and to uncover the mechanisms of complicated catalytic reaction sequences. Developing these tools creates a platform for analyzing large datasets, including those generated from high-throughput experimentation and automated laboratories, and for predicting reactivity to facilitate late-stage functionalization.
For examples of our work, see:
(a) Shifts between thermodynamic and kinetic control in reaction mechanisms - J. Org. Chem. 2023, 88, 613.
3. Applying Catalysts to Key Bond Formations: Sustainability in Chemical Transformations
Molecular catalysts provide cost-effective and sustainable routes to synthesize target organic molecules. Our approach to studying reaction mechanisms will allow us to design new catalyst systems for forging key carbon–carbon and carbon–heteroatom bonds, removing the need for stoichiometric activators that currently generate significant chemical waste in important transformations such as the synthesis of peptide bonds. Target reactions span the upscaling of feedstock chemicals to the late-stage asymmetric functionalization of complex molecules, using bifunctional catalysts and/or activation through photo- and electrocatalytic strategies.
We have active collaborations with the following academic and industrial research teams from across the world:
Dr. Cheng-Che Tsai, Tunghai University, Taiwan
Pfizer, Process Chemistry Group, Groton CT