Research in the group is focused on enantioselective homogeneous catalysis and heterogeneous catalysis of electrochemical reactions in fuel cells. Enantioselective homogeneous catalysis occurs in solution where a prochiral substrate is preferentially transformed into one enantiomer of a chiral product by a small amount (typically 0.1%) of a chiral catalyst. Enantioselective catalysis is the most efficient method to produce chiral molecules, and is of major interest to the production of pharmaceuticals. Research in the group on enantioselective catalysis includes design, synthesis, and study of new chiral transition metal catalysts; elucidation of mechanisms of enantioselective catalytic transformations using isotope substitution, kinetics, and low temperature NMR; and preparation of highly reusable polymeric catalysts by ring opening olefin metathesis polymerization (ROMP).
A fuel cell is a device that converts the free energy of oxidation of a fuel directly into electrical work. Theoretical efficiencies of fuel cells routinely exceed 90%, and the development of a fuel cell that operates with methanol as fuel would have tremendous beneficial effects both on the environment and on the economy. Research on fuel cells in the group includes synthesis of nanoparticle cocatalysts for the electrochemical oxidation of hydrogen and alcohols; and use of magnetic resonance imaging to observe the distribution of water throughout operating fuel cells.
Research in the group is inherently multidisciplinary. Graduate students become proficient in the techniques and principles of synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry, enantioselective catalysis, electrochemistry, and the construction and operation of prototype fuel cells.