The Deng Group

Research

Research in our group focuses on the synthetic, structure, and reactivity aspects of base metal chemistry with emphasizing on complexes capable of facilitating small molecule or inert bond activation, performing homogeneous catalysis, and mimicking the organometallic units in enzymes and cofactors. Research involves extensive synthesis, structural analyses with modern spectroscopic and computational methods, and detailed investigations of reactivity.

1. Organometallic Chemistry of Base Metals The search for new metal catalysts with cheap, nontoxic, and environmental benign features for organic synthesis has lead to the renaissance of first row transition metals chemistry. Among these transition metals, we are targeting iron and cobalt to tailor covalent bonds for organic synthesis. Different from the classical organo-iron and cobalt chemistry, in this project, we concentrate on the application of the unique properties these two metals have, tunable spin configuration, facile one-electron redox, and multiple stable oxidation states, to develop synthetic methods for C-C bond formation, C=C bond hydrogenation, and C-H bond oxidation. We tackle these problems upon detailed reactivity investigation of judiciously designed organo-iron and cobalt complexes.

2. Small Molecule Activation with Biomimetic ApproachSimple molecules O2, N2, CO2, and H2 are ubiquitous resources to human beings which can be used as energy reservoir to fuel the biological system or as chemical materials for the construction of complex molecules. The successful utilization of these small molecules relies on their effective activation since these molecules are quite thermodynamically stable. Despite the inertness of these molecules, many metallo-proteins and enzymes have been found efficient to mediate their activation, for example, [Fe,Fe]-hydrogenases can oxidize H2 to proton, Ni-dependent carbon monoxide dehydrogenases can promote the conversion of CO to CO2, and Fe, Mo-nitrogenases can reduce N2 to NH3, all under mild physiological conditions. Inspired by these enzymes, our solution to small molecules activation is to apply biomimetic complexes, metal complexes that share key structural or functional features with the active sites of metallo-proteins, to coordinate with small molecules and subsequently facilitate their activation. Currently, we are pursuing hetero-bimetallic Ni-Fe assemblies modeling the key structural motif of C-cluster in Ni-CODHs for CO2 activation.

©2012 The Deng Research Group