Phosphorus Masquerading as a Metal

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Chemistry


The applicant has an outstanding track-record for her career stage and growing international reputation. This proposal uses synthetic chemistry to provide environment-friendly catalysts based on cheap and highly available elements.

Catalysts are required to produce 90% of all chemicals used in modern societies. Catalysts are often made of expensive and scarce transition metals, e.g. palladium and platinum. Catalysts made of main group elements, e.g. phosphorus, are attractive alternatives because of lower costs and greater availability. Transition metals are great catalysts because they can cycle between multiple stable oxidation states and can bring together several small molecules, enabling their addition. In contrast, main group catalysts generally only activate one small molecule at a time and have one primary oxidation state. We propose that by clustering main group elements together they will cooperate to better emulate the coordination and redox abilities of transition metals. Our recent results show that this is possible. This addresses the major limitations in developing main group catalysts that can rival transition metal catalysts.
We will:
-Prepare clusters that bring together multiple small molecules.
-Develop the redox chemistry necessary to couple two small molecules together, thus mediating new bond forming reactions.
-Develop clusters that tandem activate different types of molecules and add them together.
-Integrate the addition and redox bond formation chemistries to access complex catalysis pathways, e.g. cascade catalysis.

This cohesive and innovative project provides synthesis science with a diverse tool to assemble the molecules that underpin everyday life, e.g. pharmaceuticals, electronics and fuels. P_Cat has the potential to fundamentally change the way that future main group catalysts are designed, thus redefining the state-of-the-art.
This project feeds into priority area 'A European Green Deal' and delivers high-calibre scientists.


10 25 50