A radical approach to catalysis

Inaugural lecture Bas de Bruin, professor of Bio-inspired Sustainable Catalysis

3 June 2014

Bas de Bruin, professor in Bio-inspired Sustainable Catalysis, held his inaugural lecture 21 May 2014. Via the basics of chemistry and catalysis he explained his audience the essence of his research programme. In this he follows an approach inspired by nature, enabling a more efficient production as well as utilisation of catalysts. His main focus is on the application of radical reactivity to sustainable catalysis.

The use of catalysts is crucial to the production of medicines, agricultural products (such as insecticides) and other chemical products such as paint and plastics. Catalysts enable chemical reactions to be carried out faster, more selectively and at lower temperatures and pressure, as well as reducing costs, energy use and waste.

The application and improvement of catalysts is becoming increasingly important. Catalysts can help us to use natural resources and energy sources more efficiently. As such they are a key element in the transition towards a sustainable society.

Radical reactions

To be able to fulfil this important role catalysis itself has to become more sustainable. Commonly used elements in catalysis, such as rhodium and palladium, are becoming increasingly scarce. Alternatives are sought in more abundant elements such as manganese and iron. However, these metals are prone to react through a so-called radical reaction mechanism. This is a far from uncommon mechanism that is well known in the biological domain. How radicals can be used for selective and controlled synthetic-catalytical processes, however, is far from clear.

Bas de Bruin wants to get to the heart of radical reaction processes to be able to develop fast, selective and cost-effective catalytical processes based on common metals. In the performance of natural metallo-enzymes he finds his inspiration to develop future catalysts based on radical reactivity. This will hopefully lead to a more efficient production of chemical products and as such contribute to the sustainable society of the future.

Published by  HIMS