New ligand systems for metal-based catalysis: Synthesis, screening and theoretical studies

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Chemistry


There is currently substantial growth in the petrochemical industry in the Far East. This is particularly the case for the Chinese Petrochemical Industry. As a consequence, there is also currently a great deal of academic interest in the field in that part of the world, with various groups actively engaged in the development of new catalytic systems. This is in stark contrast to the situation in the UK, which has been stagnent for some time, with much of the industry moving to mainland Europe or the States, with an inevitable negative knock on effect for UK academia. Interestingly however, there are now signs of a recovery, reflected in the fact that Dalton Transactions are about to publish a special issue later this year on olefin polymerisation. It is against this background that we feel well-placed to maintain the UKs academic interest in the development of new catalysts for olefin polymerisation (and ring opening polymerisations). Our experimental studies on catalyst development are on-going with the groups of Profs Sun (Beijing) and Yamato (Saga), complemented by the theoretical studies conducted by the Kasai group in Osaka. Other groups in mainland China (Changchun), Hong Kong (City U and HKUST) and Japan (Kumamoto) are now keen to join the project.A related area of chemistry is to utilise calixarene assemblies as nanopots for organic catalysis (and prehaps also polymerisation catalysis). This includes generation of a red/ox potential by absorption of photons by semiconductor Quantum Dots. Calixarenes will be bound in close proximity to the QDs' surface. Small organic 'guest'-molecules will enter the calixarene cavity and be transformed. The activation energy (electrochemical reduction potential) will be reduced as compared with 'direct' reduction by entropic profit of the binding of the reactants at the calixarene. This project will bring on board added expertise from the PIs own institution, with results guided by modelling performed in Osaka.Finally, peptidocalixarene frameworks will be used to mimic the secondary interactions found in the active site of all iron hydrogenase. Calculations performed in Osaka suggets that a calix[5]arene platform is best suited to provide the requisite iron - iron separation, and synthetic work will be conducted at UEA, guided by the theoretical studies in Osaka.

Planned Impact

The planned projects will benefit the partner research groups and their respective parent institutions, and the international chemistry community in general through the dissemination of the results. Indeed, impact of research results will be maximised via peer-reviewed scientific journals, conference presentations, editorials, focus articles and, if appropriate, through the general media. The programme will be impacted directly by deepening collaboration between the PI and the Far East participants. All groups will be in weekly e-mail contact to maintain progress and momentum, and a number of workshop-style symposia will be held when the PI is in the Far East, where upon Chinese/Japanese students will be encourage to read/present their work in english. Such workshops and also seminars given by the PI may well prove to be useful recruiting tools, whereby the overseas researchers bring their fellowships and scholarships to UK institutions. Furthermore, UK researchers may also wish to take up their fellowships in China/Hong Kong/Japan, and the PI will be ideally placed to broker such 'deals'. The exchange of researchers between the UK and China/Hong Kong/Japan will offer new cultural experiences for those involved, leading to better cross-cultural understanding and a positive impact on UK/China/Hong Kong/Japan relations. Contrasting research styles and personalities will lead to intellectual and creative challenges which can only serve to enhance the research environment. Integration of the research themes will greatly improve productivity and quality of the research output, since the combined expertise of the research teams is far greater than the sum total of the participating groups acting alone. Plastic materials are essential in our every day life and find use in almost all domestic and industrial appliances. Low density, low cost, combined with high versatility have made such materials ideal substitutes for ferrous and non-ferrous metallic materials. Commodity polymers are used in packaging, clothing, car manufacturing, etc. Specialty polymers find use in electronics, bullet-proof vests, modern aircrafts, and the list goes on. The consumption of plastics is mainly driven by the food and packaging sector which, for the UK, represents 38 % of the annual plastic consumption. Our catalytic studies are ultimately aimed at providing new, low-cost routes to plastic materials and the availability of new biodegradable polymers with desirable properties would impact on everyday life. This is particularly topical given the current problems with landfill sites, which is an increasingly worrying issue in the UK (and elsewhere).


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Description A number of new catalysts have been discovered which can produce polymers at high temperatures and are therefore suitable for use under industrial conditions. We have also produced a number of new catalysts with high efficient for producing biodegradable polymers.
Exploitation Route Because these catalysts generate new IP there is the possibility that new (and old) polyolefin companies can use these systems rather than buy our licences rather than purchase told and expensive catalyst technology.
Sectors Chemicals