Bettering nature’s approach - optimizing catalysts from the single molecule perspective
Vici 2019 (NWO Grant, 2020 - 2025)
Enzymes are a source of inspiration for man-made catalysts, because they can bring about challenging reactions such as CO2 reduction or H2O oxidation with better efficiency and selectivity than any artificial process. Enzymatic active centres usually consist of constrained coordination environments around metals. Biomimetic design attempts to recreate the primary coordination sphere around the metal and includes simple approximations of the secondary coordination sphere. While the primary coordination sphere determines the reactivity of the metal, the secondary sphere can play a critical role in substrate binding and activation. In this project, we are studying the secondary sphere effects at the single-molecule level. We look into the effects of modifications of the secondary coordination sphere on the binding and activation of small molecules such as CO2, H2O, O2. We will link this information to the reactivity of these complexes in solution and use the trends to systematically design new complexes. We aim to converge to an optimized overall design for any given metal catalyst and reaction.
Insight into the binding and activation of a substrate at a single molecule level