Petri Pihko on the Challenges with Man-Made Catalysts

Emerging Research Front Commentary, August 2010

Petri Pihko

Article: Activation of carbonyl compounds by double hydrogen bonding: An emerging tool in asymmetric catalysis


Authors: Pihko, PM
Journal: ANGEW CHEM INT ED, 43 (16): 2062-2064 APR 4 2004
Addresses: Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, Department of Chemical Technology, Helsinki University of Technology, FIN-02015 HUT, Finland.

Petri Pihko talks with ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about this month's Emerging Research Front paper in the field of Chemistry.


SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited? Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

The paper is highly cited because it highlights an emerging field—the use of catalysts bearing multiple hydrogen bonding sites. Since this is a highlight paper, it does not contain any new experimental results, but it has probably influenced how researchers look at simple hydrogen bond motifs as potential catalytic sites.

SW: Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

"In this endeavor, we collaborate with groups involved in structural enzymology as well as computational chemistry."

Typically, catalysts accelerate chemical reactions by binding to the reacting components with strong bonds. In recent years, researchers have realized that weaker bonds, such as hydrogen bonds, can also be used to activate the reacting species.

SW: How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way? Where do you see your research leading in the future?

One of the largest challenges we face is how poor most man-made catalysts still are. Researchers typically use the best, most reactive reactants to demonstrate the power of their catalytic methods, and when others, including researchers in the pharmaceutical industry, want to apply the methodology to more relevant targets, too often they realize the scope of the catalytic method is too narrow.

There are several important reaction types that have so far been successful only in the realm of enzymes, but never with synthetic catalysts. The use of synthetic catalysts, in contrast with enzymes, offers some advantages, especially when new reactions that are not part of the biosynthetic machinery are used.

In our group, we are currently trying to understand the essentials of hydrogen bonding in enzymatic catalysis, and to develop novel catalytic systems based on the insights offered by high-quality enzyme structures. In this endeavor, we collaborate with groups involved in structural enzymology as well as computational chemistry.End

Prof. Petri Pihko
Department of Chemistry
University of Jyväskylä
Jyväskylä, Finland

KEYWORDS: ALDOL REACTION, ASYMMETRIC CATALYSIS, CYCLOADDITION, HYDROGEN BONDS, ORGANOCATALYSIS, CARBONYL COMPOUNDS, DIELS-ALDER REACTIONS, INTERMOLECULAR ALDOL REACTIONS, ACID-BASE CATALYSIS, STRECKER REACTION, COMPLEX REACTIONS, ENZYME CATALYSIS, METAL FREE, ACCELERATION, UREA.

Citing URL: http://sciencewatch.com/dr/erf/2010/10augerf/10augerfPihk/

 
 

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