New Inorganic Polymers: Carbon-based polymers are ubiquitous. From textiles, to electronics, to packaging, to banknotes, to structural materials, we see and use these daily. Substituting the carbon elements with other earth abundant main-group elements, such as silicon, nitrogen, phosphorus,or oxygen, will create materials with modified properties (e.g. strength, flexibility, conductivity, solubility, etc.) and will lead to unrealized applications. We are interested in exploring ways to make new inorganic polymers that do not result in the elimination of toxic byproducts or large amounts of salt.
Functional Inorganic Molecules and Materials Accessed by Catalysis: Main-group bonds (E-E’; where E is a p-block element other than C) are found in many natural products and have very exciting properties. Current synthetic routes are based on salt metathesis, reductive coupling, and nucleophilic substitution, often using harsh reaction conditions, highly-reactive hazardous reagents, and yielding toxic byproducts. We are interested in using catalysis to create new homonuclear (E-E) and heteronuclear (E-E’) main-group bonds which eliminate non-toxic byproducts. In order to do this, our group looks at ways to synthesis new substrates which can be used in dehydrocoupling and oxidative cross-coupling reactions. We also investigate the mechanisms of how the bonds between main-group elements form.
The Design of New Transition-Metal-Free Catalysts: There is no disputing that homogeneous transition metal based catalysis is an efficient, economical and elegant tool for chemical synthesis. However, there are some applications (e.g. in medicine, electronic devices) where the presence of trace amounts of metals remains problematic. Combining recent advances in the development of metal-free molecules (e.g. N-Heterocyclic Carbenes, Frustrated Lewis Pairs) available for small molecule activation with the required features of a transition-metal catalyst we are pursuing the development of a new class of ambiphilic transition-metal-free catalysts.