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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R020418/1
Title: Organo-Fluoro-Pnictonium Cations: Designing a New Class of Lewis Acid Catalyst
Principal Investigator: Benjamin, Dr S
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Key Organics Ltd
Department: School of Science & Technology
Organisation: Nottingham Trent University
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 26 March 2018 Ends: 25 September 2019 Value (£): 99,896
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Co-ordination Chemistry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Oct 2017 EPSRC Physical Sciences - October 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Commercially synthesised organic chemicals are crucial to industries as diverse as agriculture, medicine and electronics. The enormous global demand for these products is constantly rising in the face of innovations in drug design and everyday technology, such as mobile phones and solar panels. Set against this is the increasingly important need to conserve energy and raw materials, in the context of environmental concerns and diminishing natural resources. Catalysis is an extremely important tool in reconciling these competing demands. Using a catalyst lowers the energy barrier to carry out a given chemical reaction, allowing processes to function at lower temperatures and pressures, consuming less energy. Catalysts can also improve resource and time economy by promoting new reactions, reducing the number of reagents and steps required to obtain an end product. Catalysts are not consumed in these processes, but regenerated, making them a keystone of sustainable synthetic chemistry.

This project will provide the fundamental research needed for development of low cost, efficient and accessible new catalysts. Currently, many of the catalysts most widely used in commercial organic synthesis are based on costly transition metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, which have low natural abundance. Research into new catalysts is increasingly focused on replacing these with cheaper metals in existing catalytic processes. It is also desirable to develop catalysts for new processes, leading to improved reaction pathways and new products. While simple halides of main group elements have long been used as Lewis acid catalysts, these are generally corrosive and lack any tuneability. The development of catalysts based on organometallic main group derivatives is a nascent but rapidly growing area of study. Several important advances in recent years have challenged the idea that transition metals are necessary for the catalysis of organic bond forming reactions. Main group metals such as antimony (Sb) and bismuth (Bi) are abundant and inexpensive (more than 20 times cheaper than platinum, for example).

The proposed research will develop straightforward synthetic routes to new molecules comprising organic and fluoride substituted Sb and Bi cations with weakly coordinating anions. Based on previous work, these molecules have the potential to be good catalysts for organic transformations because of their tuneable Lewis acidity and well-defined vacant binding sites. Organometallic compounds of heavy main group metals have until now received far less study than those of transition metals, and research into the organic fluorides of Sb and Bi has been particularly limited, despite these promising attributes. An important outcome of this project will be to understand the fundamental chemistry and bonding of these types of compound, and determine the most efficient ways to produce them. Investigation of their reactivity with Lewis bases and small organic molecules will help to identify potential catalysts which will be screened against a test set of key reactions. Establishing the basic chemistry governing the interaction of main group organometallic molecules with organic substrates is essential to reducing global dependence on expensive transition metal catalysts in the long term.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.ntu.ac.uk