Washington, Nov 17 : A team of scientists has discovered a new class of exceptionally effective catalysts that can open up a vast new scientific platform to researchers in medicine, biology and materials, which would be faster, cleaner and more efficient.
The discovery was made by a team of Boston College and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientists, who found catalysts that promote the powerful olefin metathesis reaction.
The new catalysts can be easily prepared and possess unique features never before utilized by chemists, according to findings from a team led by Boston College Professor Amir H. Hoveyda and MIT Professor and Nobel laureate Richard Schrock, who shared the 2005 prize in Chemistry for early discoveries of catalytic olefin metathesis.
"In order for chemists to gain access to molecules that can enhance the quality of human life, we need reliable, highly efficient, selective and environmentally friendly chemical reactions," said Hoveyda. "Discovering catalysts that promote these transformations is one of the great challenges of modern chemistry," he added.
Catalytic olefin metathesis transforms simple molecules into complex ones.
But, a chief challenge has been developing catalysts to this organic chemical reaction that are practical and offer exceptional selectivity for a significantly broader range of reactions.
According to Schrock, the Frederick G. Keyes Professor of Chemistry at MIT, the unprecedented level of control the new class of catalysts provides will advance research across multiple fields.
"We expect this highly flexible palette of catalysts to be useful for a wide variety of catalytic reactions that are catalyzed by a high oxidation state alkylidene species, and to be able to design catalytic metathesis reactions with a control that has rarely if ever been observed before," Schrock said.
Highly versatile molecules that contain carbon-carbon double bonds, alkenes, or olefins, are ubiquitous in medicinally relevant and biologically active molecules.
Tetrahedral in constitution, the new catalysts are the first to exploit a metal with four different ligands - molecules that bond to the central metal - which in turn dictate the catalysts' high level of reactivity and selectivity.
"For the first time, these catalysts take advantage of the configuration of a metal with four different ligands attached to it, an untested situation that has long been predicted to be a strong director of asymmetric catalytic reactions that take place at the metal center," said Schrock.
The new catalysts are also structurally flexible, a relatively unconventional attribute that lends them exceptional chemical activity.