Increasing the efficiency of chemical synthesis using asymmetric transition metal catalysis

  • Lam, Hon (Principal Investigator)

Project Details

Layman's description

Organic molecules of all shapes and sizes are required for a multitude of applications in numerous settings, such as in the biomedical, pharmaceutical, and agrochemical industries, to name but a few. To meet this demand, organic synthesis is faced with the challenge of converting simple, readily available chemical building blocks into more complex structures in as rapid, efficient, and cost-effective a manner as possible. As such, increasing the efficiency of organic synthesis provides enormous benefits to society, quality of life, and a sustainable future. In this context, the use of catalysis to promote chemical reactions will play a vital role. The addition of small quantities of a catalyst to open up, accelerate, and fully control the outcome of complex chemical processes offers unparalleled opportunities for increasing the efficiency of organic synthesis. Of the catalysts available, those based upon transition metals are particularly valuable for the following reasons:1. Reactions catalysed by transition metals often proceed under very mild conditions.2. Transition metals exhibit a broad range of different behaviours, allowing their use in a tremendously diverse range of reactions. Simply replacing one transition metal catalyst with another can completely alter the course of a process, enabling a suite of powerful, complementary reactions to be developed.3. Transition metal-based catalysts are often comprised of an organic molecule called a ligand bound to a metal salt. This ligand fundamentally alters the steric and electronic characteristics of that catalyst, ultimately impacting chemical behaviour. Simply replacing one ligand with another can completely alter the outcome of a chemical reaction, allowing chemists to fine tune a catalyst to fit the purpose.In this proposal, we outline novel strategies to prepare useful chemical building blocks through a variety of reactions catalysed by transition metals. An important feature of the reactions is that the catalyst will control which particular enantiomer (non-superimposable mirror image) of the product is formed. This aspect is vital since different enantiomers of functional molecules (such as drugs) often display different behaviours. During the course of this research, we hope to be able to establish concepts that can be applied in initially unanticipated contexts, ultimately providing positive contributions to organic synthesis and society.

Key findings

Thus far, this research has resulted in:
1. The development of highly enantioselective copper-catalysed borylative aldol cyclisations.
2. The development of highly enantioselective palladium-catalysed additions of alkylazaarenes to imines and nitroalkenes.
Effective start/end date1/10/1030/09/13


  • EPSRC: £1,182,570.00


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