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Spring 2013 - Catalysts

Developing a Sustainable Catalyst Toolbox

Work in the Woo Group is directed towards developing green chemistry approaches to catalytic reactions and sustainable technologies. Students will learn and engage in practices that develop more economical and greener processes by utilizing environmentally friendly transition metal complexes and solvents as substitutes for commonly used heavy metal compounds and organic media.

A natural source of inspiration and insight is the central role of metalloporphyrins as the catalytic site in a variety of enzymes. This includes the cytochromes P450 and peroxidases, heme proteins involved in the catalytic transformation of a range of substrates. The wide range of heme use in nature suggests that the utility of synthetic porphyrin complexes in catalytic reactions is largely untapped and will be explored further. 

In parallel work, we are developing water-based processes that employ surfactants or surfactant-based ligands, such as 1, that facilitate the catalysis of organic reactions with metal complexes under aqueous conditions.  Undergraduate researchers will assess the effectiveness of new catalysts and water-based processes in expanding the sustainable chemical toolbox.

Program mentor: Keith Woo, professor, Chemistry, Iowa State University

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