Applied Homogeneous Catalysis
Prof. Dr. Matthias Beller
In our department we investigate important aspects of homogeneous catalysis, especially of transition metal-catalysts. Fundamental strategic aims of our research are the development of new, environmentally benign catalysts and synthetic protocols as well as their application in industry. The transfer of results from model studies and mechanistic investigations to concrete chemical products or processes is a particularly important aspect here.
The main focus of our research is on the topics „palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions of aryl halides“, „(enantio)selective oxidations“, „application of catalysts for the synthesis of biologically active agents“ as well as „catalytic carbonylations“. Within the first topic we work on methodical investigations on catalytic functionalization reactions of aryl halides – especially of economical chloro- and bromoarenes - and arenes towards aromatic amines, arylated olefins, benzaldehydes, benzoic acid derivatives, benzonitriles etc. During the last years we have developed several metal complexes and ligands (e.g., palladacycles, adamantylphosphines, arylheteroarylphosphines), which are applied by other research groups as well as on technical scale. Besides the improvement of catalysts we have also progressed with methodic developments. For example we have established potassium hexacyanoferrate(II) as non-toxic and environmentally benign cyanation reagent.
Metal complex-catalyzed oxidation reactions are quantitatively the most important homogeneously catalyzed reactions in chemical industry. For a sustainable development of chemical processes the utilization of environmentally benign and economic oxidants is the primary aim of our research efforts. Thus, we focus on the development of catalytic oxidation reactions with molecular oxygen or hydrogen peroxide as oxidant. In the past we developed the first osmium-catalyzed dihydroxylation with air. Noteworthy, in this reaction both oxygen atoms are incorporated productively into the oxidation products (until then just very few examples for this kind of reaction of oxygen have been described worldwide). Actually and in future we are working on catalytic epoxidations with iron-catalysts in the presence of hydrogen peroxide as well as on oxidation reactions of alcohols, both synthetic methods of great potential. Our newest work on Fe-systems is also relevant for biological oxidation processes.
In order to utilize catalytic reactions for the synthesis of new active agents we are particularly working on the regioselective addition of amines to double bonds and on carbonylation reactions. Here, we were able to realize the first transition metal-catalyzed anti-Markovnikov amination of alkynes and styrenes. Recent results (since 2004) concern more and more catalytic syntheses of indole derivatives. In cooperation with pharmaceuticals companies we aim at the development of new analgetics, anti-Alzheimer drugs and kinase inhibitors.
The group „carbonylation reactions“ is working on the development of atom-efficient multicomponent reactions for ß-amino acid derivatives and on palladium-catalyzed carbonylations of aryl halides. In a basic research project we have developed catalysts for the reductive carbonylation of aryl halides, which are now used for first technical applications on a >1000 kg scale for the synthesis of pharma intermediates. Other carbonylation reactions that are worked on in collaboration with industry are hydroformylation reactions of large-scale olefin mixtures. Conceptionally we were able to show that these olefin mixtures can be converted to one desired product selectively. This work was published and highlighted in Science.