Transition metal mediated catalysis plays an important role in today’s world, and is involved in the production of pharmaceuticals, fine/commodity chemicals, and high performance polymers/co-polymers. A greater understanding of the reactivity of transition metal active species is vital to the development of new catalysts and new transformations. Research in the Burns group focuses on synthetic and mechanistic organometallic chemistry involving the design of novel organic based ligands and transition metal complexes for catalytic C-X (X = H, C, B, Si) bond formation. The Burns group employs ligand-oriented catalyst design, utilizing traditional organic synthesis, to target reactive single-site homogeneous transition metal catalysts. The challenges presented by this area of research are appealing because they offer chemists a chance to apply and develop new synthetic methodologies.
Merging homogeneous catalysis and heterogeneous catalysis is another area of focus in the Burns group. A key ligand design element for many homogenous transition metal catalysts is for the ancillary ligand to possess steric bulk. This feature can greatly increase the difficultly of ligand synthesis. Utilization of the three-dimensional structure of periodic mesoporous silicas to the replace ligand steric bulk affords a new method of transition metal catalyst synthesis. New molecules and reactions discovered during the course of our research may challenge current ideas on structure, bonding, and reactivity.
A wide range of synthetic and spectroscopic methods for the manipulation and characterization of reactive materials, including air- and moisture-sensitive manipulations using gloveboxes and Schlenk lines, multinuclear NMR spectroscopy, IR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, electrochemistry, molecular modeling and X-ray crystallography are employed. The research conducted in our labs is directed toward understanding the roles of transition metals in catalysis and developing new stoichiometric and catalytic transformations for converting readily available molecules such as olefins and alkanes into more valuable products.