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Professor Bas de Bruin of the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences and the research priority area Sustainable Chemistry has received a € 780.000 TOP grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO. Together with three PhD students he aims to develop the use of so-called 'hypovalent' molecules in catalysis. It is expected this will enable a more efficient synthesis of medicines, fragrances, flavors and materials.

Carbenoids and nitrenoids are examples of hypovalent species. Image: HIMS.

Hypovalent species such as carbenoids and nitrenoids are reactive electron deficient species that do not fulfil the ‘octet rule’. Their high reactivity is very interesting to chemists. They enable for example the direct functionalization of C-H bonds, thus making various synthesis routes shorter and more effective. 

Prof Bas de Bruin, professor Bio-inspired sustainable catalysis
Professor Bas de Bruin. Photo by Jeroen Oerlemans.

In this way all kinds of medicines, fragrances, flavors and materials can be synthesized much more efficiently than with currently available synthetic methodologies. Carbenoids are also of interest for making new polymers.

Despite the fascinating prospects for organic synthesis there is only a poor understanding of the catalytic reactions in which radical-type and related hypovalent (carbenoid, nitrenoid etc) intermediates are involved. Much more research is required to uncover the possibilities (and limitations) of these species. With this NWO-TOP grant the group of Bas de Bruin aims to give an important impetus to this research field.

Synthetic scheme of the use of hypovalent species for C-H bond functionalisation, which will be explored in Bas de Bruin's TOP project. Image: HIMS.

Since the use of hypovalent species is currently very expensive - and sometimes also dangerous - the researchers will also develop new, safe and sustainable methods to prepare the required reactive carbenoids and nitrenoids. 

View the research webpage of Bas de Bruin


TOP Grants are for excellent, established research groups with a clear chemical, biochemical or chemical-technological reputation. The research group can use the grant to strengthen or renew challenging and innovative lines of research. The grant can be used to fund several scientific positions and consumables up to six years. This will enable the research group to realise several interrelated projects.

Visit the NWO TOP Grants website