Prof. Peng Liu receives NSF CAREER Award

Professor Peng Liu has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation CAREER award based upon his proposal, entitled “Computational Studies of Transition-Metal-Catalyzed Reactions in Organic Synthesis.”

_3457225Peng Liu, Department of Chemistry
Computational Studies of Transition Metal Catalyzed Reactions in Organic Synthesis (#1654122 )

In this CAREER project funded by the Chemical Structure, Dynamic & Mechanism B Program of the Chemistry Division, Professor Peng Liu of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh is developing new strategies to use computational tools to investigate mechanisms and effects of ancillary ligands in transition-metal-catalyzed reactions of unactivated starting materials, such as C-C and C-H bonds, and unactivated olefins. The goal of this research is to reveal the fundamental reactivity rules of common organometallic intermediates in these transformations and to develop new models to interpret ligand effects on reactivity and selectivity. This proposal’s educational and outreach plan aims to maximize the power of computations to enhance learning of organic chemistry concepts and to facilitate synthetic organic chemistry research. Professor Liu’s team will develop virtual reality (VR) software and educational materials to visualize three-dimensional molecular structures and reaction mechanism videos in an interactive and immersive environment.peng2

This project aims to address two basic challenges in performing computational studies on transition-metal-catalysis: 1) the lack of mechanistic understandings in many recently developed catalytic systems, and 2) the complexities in analyzing and rationalizing computational data, in particular, the origin of ligand effects. The proposed research will investigate novel reaction pathways involving the activated organometallic intermediates formed after the C-H and C-C bond cleavage steps, and elucidate the effects of ligands, directing groups, substituents, ring strain, and norbornene and Lewis acid co-catalysts. To systematically characterize the origin of ligand effects on reactivity and selectivity, a ligand-substrate interaction model will be developed. This model uses energy decomposition analysis (EDA) methods to dissect the through-space ligand-substrate interactions into chemically meaningful terms, including steric repulsion, polarization, charge transfer, and dispersion. The insights obtained from the proposed ligand-substrate interaction model will be used to develop of a catalyst screening methodology for transition-metal-catalysts.

Profesor Liu received $625,000 in funding for the five-year awards.