RESEARCH DESCRIPTION

The research in our group is at the interface between inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry focusing on reaction mechanisms and new synthetic methodologies.  We are primarily interested in utilizing inexpensive metals such as nickel, cobalt, iron, and copper for homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis.  

Highlights of our previous research efforts include: (1) development of an efficient catalytic process for the reduction of carbon dioxide to methanol derivatives; (2) development of the first iron-based catalytic system for the hydrogenation of unactivated esters including industrially relevant fatty acids methyl esters (in collaboration with P&G Chemicals); and (3) discovery of a long-lived nickel-based catalyst for the cyanomethylation of aldehydes. 

 

Currently, we are working on the following research projects: 
(1) nickel, cobalt, iron, and copper complexes bearing POCOP, PNP, or related pincer-type ligands for catalytic reduction of carbonyl functionalities including those in aldehydes, ketones, carbon dioxide, amides, and esters; 
(2) heterobimetallic complexes for catalytic hydrogenation and water-gas shift reactions;

(3) hydrogenation or reduction reactions catalyzed by cobalt particles;
(4) mechanistic studies of copper-catalyzed C-H cyanation and fluorination reactions (in collaboration with Prof. Guosheng Liu at Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry); 
(5) upgrading biorefinery lignin to chemicals (in collaboration with Prof. Maobing Tu at UC Department of Environmental Engineering).

Our research has been supported by the NSF Chemical Catalysis Program (CHE-1800151, CHE-1464734, and CHE-0952083), NSF MRI Program (CHE-1726092 and CHE-1625737), ACS-PRF, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Procter & Gamble (P&G Chemicals, P&G Beauty & Grooming, and P&G Corporate R&D), Coca-Cola, Ford, Cambridge Isotope Laboratories, and Stella and Hoke S. Greene Endowment.  

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Department of Chemistry