Thanks for taking an interest in our research. We are a small, close-knit and enthusiastic team made-up of undergraduates, PhD students and post-docs. Our work focuses on the development of new catalytic methodologies for organic synthesis using non-toxic, environmentally benign and inexpensive reagents and catalysts. Ultimately, we aim to provide the non-expert with operationally simple methods for the construction of complex molecular frameworks. Underpinning this is a keen interest in physical organic chemistry and organometallic mechanism to understand and probe the fundamental reactivity and interactions of our developed methods.
“It’s really important for iron catalysis to not only replicate what others have done with platinum or rhodium, but to actually do things that these other metals can’t do; …the fact that it’s iron catalysed just makes it even better”.1
Homogeneous catalysis has transformed the way molecules are made on both industrial- and research scale. Iron catalysis offers an environmentally benign, non-toxic and inexpensive alternative for the construction of complex molecular frameworks. We are focused on developing novel methods for the reductive functionalisation of alkenes which use bench-stable iron (pre-)catalysts and commercially available reagents.
Hydrogenation and Reductive Cross-coupling
Olefin hydrogenation is one of the most used methods for the preparation of fine and bulk chemicals. We have introduced increasingly practical methods for the hydrogenation of alkenes using simple iron salts as the catalyst, and hydrogen gas or a hydride source as the stoichiometric reductant. More recently, we have combined iron-catalysed cross-coupling and hydrogenations into a single transformation; reductive cross-coupling.
We have developed an iron-catalysed alkene hydrofuctionalisation protocol which uses just 1 mol% FeCl2 to catalyse the formal hydrocarboxylation of alkenes. Initial mechanistic studies have shown that the reaction is initiated by an iron-catalysed hydromagnesiation to give a Grignard reagent which is trapped in situ by an electrophile (CO2).
Frustrated Lewis Pairs
The ability to mimic the reactivity of metal catalysts with small organic molecules is a highly exciting area of research. We have initiated a program of research using frustrated Lewis pairs to catalyse olefin hydrogenation and small molecule activation. Once again, a key aim to our research in this area is practicality.
1. Prof. Paul J. Chirik (Princeton University, USA), extract from interview, Chemistry World 2010, 7, 30.