The efficient activation and conversion of greenhouse gases into valuable
liquid chemicals is an important challenge in modern science. Impressive
methods for activating CO2, CO, H2, N2O... by using new types of catalysts
constituted exclusively of main-group elements (frustrated Lewis pairs) have
been recently developed, and are becoming an attractive alternative to
transition-metal based catalysts.
In this project, I will start by producing new types of robust and powerful
boron Lewis acids and by determining their strength (Lewis acidity). Then I
will connect them to selected bulky Lewis bases with various linkers in order
to produce tailored-made Lewis acid/base bifunctional catalyts. Their
structures and stereoelectronic properties will be finely tuned, which will
open new perspectives in frustrated Lewis pairs catalysis (C–H and C-X
bonds activation, small-molecules activation) and in materials science
(bidentate detectors for specific anions…).
A fundamental understanding of the kinetics and thermodynamic factors
controlling the cooperative Lewis acid/base effects in such bifunctional
catalysts will be gained by employing advanced chemical, physical, and
computational methods, and will guide future structural improvements and
reaction condition optimizations.
My goal in designing finely-tunable Lewis acid/base catalysts is to
overcome the current limitations and to activate inert chemical bonds
efficiently (e.g. C–H bonds of methane, alcanes and hydrocarbons or the CX
bonds of haloforms) without transition metals. This proof of concept could
be the basis of future innovative methods making possible to valorize
greenhouse gases, a current environmental, economic and scientific
challenge. My expertise in material sciences and in organoboron chemistry,
combined with my advanced knowledge in chemical reactivity and catalysis
will be decisive for accomplishing this long-term research project.