Research in our lab will target the design, development, and understanding of catalytic systems for transforming small molecules into value-added compounds such as sequence-controlled polymers and fuels. Most of these systems will center around the use of molecular transition metal catalysts (e.g., Ni, Pd, Ir, or Ta complexes).
One area of research is ligand-controlled chemodivergent catalytic reactions. In particular, we seek to develop systems in which different functional groups of a substrate can be made to react selectively with a metal catalyst (“M”) – leading to different products – by simply changing an ancillary ligand on the catalyst. Toward this end, we will design ligands that can be turned “on” and “off” to alter the behavior of the metal catalyst. The targeted methodology could find applications in the synthesis of sequence-controlled polymers.
Converting Methane into Heavier Alkanes
Another research area is converting methane into heavier hydrocarbons by catalytic processes involving C–H activation and carbon–carbon bond formation. Efficient ways to convert CH4 (a gas) into heavy hydrocarbons (liquids/solids) could enable more economical use of natural gas resources due to the relative ease of transporting liquid or solid versus gaseous materials.