New catalysts promise faster, cleaner research platform


Washington : A new class of exceptionally effective catalysts have been isolated by a team of Boston College and MIT scientists, opening up a vast new scientific platform to researchers in medicine, biology and materials.

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The new catalysts can be easily prepared and possess unique features never before utilised by chemists, according to findings from a team led by Amir H Hoveyda, professor at Boston College 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.”

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.

Schrock, professor of Chemistry at MIT, said the unprecedented level of control the new class of catalysts provides will advance research across multiple fields.

Unique to these catalysts are molybdenum a metal as a source of ‘chirality’ or ‘handedness’. Like the mirror image of left hand and right, molecules can come in two variations, one a reflection of the other. But these two variations often function in entirely different ways – sometimes one proves harmful, while the other is benign.

With molybdenum at its core, the new catalyst gives chemists a simple, unique and efficient way to produce one form of the molecule or the other in order to yield the desired reactions, said a Boston College release.

The team’s findings were reported in the current online edition of Nature.