BITeS

20 May 2020

Catalysis Goes to Eleven

Submitted by Shirley Lin, United States Naval Academy

This blog post is dedicated to Prof. R. M. Waymouth on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

Sometimes authoring a BITeS is daunting because there have been so many great posts in the past. How can this one compete with the latest announcing IONiC's (award-winning!) contribution to the 2020 STEM for All video showcase or the exciting opportunity to order the new VIPEr t-shirt? Well, here's hoping that a catchy title with a This is Spinal Tap reference is enough to get you to click on "Read More."

Of course I'm biased when it comes to catalysis. It was my area of research both as an undergraduate and a graduate student. This is a topic that excels at bringing together many different aspects of chemistry: bonding, thermodynamics, kinetics, structure, synthesis, mechanism, characterization, spectroscopy, etc. In the case of my PhD work, catalysis also intersected with the rich world of polymer chemistry. I entered graduate school 6 months after the publication of "Oscillating Stereocontrol: A Strategy for the Synthesis of Thermoplastic Elastomeric Polypropylene" in Science. This paper became the basis for the research presented in my thesis and I'm pleased to announce that there is now a literature discussion LO for this article on the VIPEr site.

This LO offers the opportunity to discuss the enormous impact of Ziegler-Natta and metallocene-catalyzed olefin polymerization, one of the topics listed in the ACS supplement for including macromolecular, supramolecular, and nanoscale (MSN) material in the inorganic undergraduate chemistry curriculum. All of our students have daily encounters with the materials made possible by these transition metal compounds. And nearly 25 years after starting my graduate work, I am still amazed at how much is known about the chemistry of olefin polymerization by metallocene catalysts. Opportunities to apply concepts from foundational inorganic courses to this area include the relationship between catalyst symmetry and polypropylene structure, mechanisms such as migratory insertion and beta-hydride elimination, and agostic interactions, a type of 3-center 2-electron bonding.  (To find out more, please see this excellent Chemical Reviews article.) This body of work is truly a tour de force within the organometallic community and showcases what can be accomplished when chemists don't just stop at ten!