Catalysis and Synthesis

The challenge to discover novel and efficient ways to construct chemical bonds has catalysis and synthesis at its centre.

Catalysis provides efficient industrial processes that minimise energy, waste and harmful by-products, and has revolutionised the way the products we depend on as a society are made, impacting on healthcare (pharmaceuticals, imaging), food security (herbicides, pesticides), and energy conversion and harvesting (materials, catalysts).

Research in this theme covers all aspects of catalysis and synthesis across a broad range of scales. Interests range from manipulating single chemical bonds for the preparation of specific molecules, through to manipulation of nanoparticles and supramolecular compounds, to the preparation of multi-layered materials. EaStCHEM’s aims range from making bonds and materials in entirely new ways to making larger scale processes more efficient. Much of this activity relies upon an in-depth understanding of how molecules behave, so EaStCHEM also study the physical, spectroscopic, and chemical properties of molecules as well as understanding reaction mechanisms and kinetics.

Catalysis and synthesis is a route to developing new molecules and materials and is central to many fields. The range of applications of the products and processes EaStCHEM develop is broad, so the catalysis and synthesis theme impacts directly upon other research themes in many ways, such as making molecules to understand disease (the Chemistry Biology Interface) or using catalysis to generate valuable chemicals in more sustainable ways (Energy, Environmental, and Sustainable Chemistry).

At EaStCHEM, particular research strengths in catalysis and synthesis are in the areas of:

  • Biocatalysis
  • Enantioselective catalysis
  • Main group chemistry and catalysis
  • Natural product synthesis
  • Organometallics and metal-based catalysis
  • Reaction mechanism
  • Supramolecular chemistry

Research Theme Contact


Details of Catalysis and Synthesis research at our EaStCHEM partner St Andrews can be found on their website at the link below.

Synthetically Diversified Protein Nanopores: Resolving Click Reaction Mechanisms Marius M. Haugland , Stefan Borsley, Dominic F. Cairns-Gibson, Alex Elmi, and Scott L. Cockroft, ACS Nano, 2019, 13, 4101-4110. 

Activation and discovery of earth-abundant metal catalysts using sodium tert-butoxide Jamie H. Docherty, Jingying Peng, Andrew P. Dominey and Stephen P. Thomas, Nature Chemistry, 2017, 9, 595–600. 

Molecular multifunctionality preservation upon surface deposition for a chiral single-molecule magnet Dmitri Mitcov, Anders H. Pedersen,  Marcel Ceccato, Rikke M. Gelardi,  Tue Hassenkam, Andreas Konstantatos,  Anders Reinholdt,  Mikkel A. Sørensen,  Peter W. Thulstrup,  Morten G. Vinum,  Fabrice Wilhelm,  Andrei Rogalev, Wolfgang Wernsdorfer,  Euan K. Brechin and Stergios Piligkos, Chem. Sci., 2019, 10, 3065–3073.

Organometallic neptunium(III) complexes Michał S. Dutkiewicz, Joy H. Farnaby, Christos Apostolidis, Eric Colineau, Olaf Walter, Nicola Magnani, Michael G. Gardiner, Jason B. Love, Nikolas Kaltsoyannis, Roberto Caciuffo & Polly L. Arnold, Nature Chemistry, 2016, 8, 797–802.

Phosphaborenes: Accessible Reagents for the Synthesis of C−C/P−B Isosteres Amy N. Price, Dr. Gary S. Nichol,  Dr. Michael J. Cowley, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2017, 56, 9953–9957. 

Self-Assembly of Disorazole C1 through a One-Pot Alkyne Metathesis Homodimerization Strategy Kevin J. Ralston, H. Clinton Ramstadius, Richard C. Brewster, Helen S. Niblock, and Alison N. Hulme, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2015, 54, 7086–7090. 

Catalytic Enantioselective [2,3]-Rearrangements of Allylic Ammonium Ylides: A Mechanistic and Computational Study T. H. West, D. M. Walden, J. E. Taylor, A. C. Brueckner, R. C. Johnston, P. Ha-Yeon Cheong, G. C. Lloyd-Jones, and A. D. Smith, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 366–4375.

Selective and Catalytic Carbon Dioxide and Heteroallene Activation Mediated by Cerium N-Heterocyclic Carbene Complexes P. L. Arnold, R. W. F. Kerr, C. Weetman, S. R. Docherty, J. Rieb, F. L. Cruickshank, K. Wang, C. Jandl, M. W. McMullon, A. Pöthig, F. E. Kühn and A. D. Smith, Chem. Sci., 2018, 9, 8035–8045.

Chemoselective Brown Oxidation of Aryl Organoboron Systems Enabled by Boronic Acid-selective Phase Transfer J. J. Molloy, T. A. Clohessy, C. Irving, N. A. Anderson, G. C. Lloyd-Jones, and A. J. B. Watson, Chem. Sci., 2017, 8, 1551–1559.

Using the Pimeloyl-CoA Synthetase Adenylation Fold to Synthesize Fatty Acid Thioesters M. Wang, L. Moynié, P. J. Harrison, V. Kelly, A. Piper, J. H. Naismith, and D. J. Campopiano, Nat. Chem. Biol., 2017, 13, 660–667.