The central theme of the research in my group is the synthesis and study of new transition metal catalysts for important reactions. Our primary focus is the invention of new transition metal complexes to solve problems in renewable energy and organic synthesis. Our interests in renewable energy are primarily inspired by the structure of the enzyme active site of the [FeFe] hydrogenase enzyme, which catalyzes the production or activation of dihydrogen under very mild conditions. Specifically, we are synthesizing transition metal dimers that model the structure of the enzyme active site and studying the ability of these complexes to function as catalysts for dihydrogen production. We use various experimental and computational techniques to gain a better understanding of the precise mechanistic details of dihydrogen production by these various transition metal complexes. We believe that these studies will lead to the rational design of improved catalysts for dihydrogen production. Other projects in our group include the development of new transition metal complexes that catalyze environmentally important reactions such as de-sulfurization of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide hydrogenation and new chemical methods to increase the energy density of fuels derived from biomass.
There are many challenging problems in organometallic and computational chemistry related to the synthesis and study of these transition metal complexes. Students in our laboratory receive broad academic training encompassing many fundamental areas of organometallic chemistry and are well prepared to be effective researchers. Work in our laboratory provides students with the essential tools to identify important problems in organometallic chemistry, the knowledge to develop new strategies to solve these problems, and skills to perform the critical studies necessary to understand the important details of reaction processes. Specifically, students in my laboratory become familiar with standard tools and techniques used in organic synthesis and air-free glovebox and Schlenk-line techniques for organometallic complex synthesis including single crystal x-ray crystallography, electrochemical analysis, NMR and infrared spectroscopy. The results of our experimental studies are often analyzed with the aid of DFT computations.