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Kenneth M. Nicholas

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Kenneth M. Nicholas

Kenneth M. Nicholas

George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus

B.S., 1969, S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook
Ph.D., 1972, University of Texas, Austin
Postdoc, 1972-1973, Brandeis University


Transition Metal Promoted Reactions

Biomass conversion via deoxydehydration

Catalytic Nitrogenation of Hydrocarbons. The development of efficient C-N bond-forming reactions is critical to the construction of organonitrogen compounds, important synthetic intermediates and valuable end-products. In this project we are seeking metal-catalyzed nitrogenation reactions via selective C-H insertion, which employ convenient N-reagents, inexpensive catalysts, and involve novel coordinated N-species.
Catalytic Deoxydehydration of Carbohydrates and Polyols to Chemicals and Fuels. Our objective is to develop catalytic processes for the deoxydehydration (DODH) of biomass-derived carbohydrates and polyols to produce unsaturated alcohols and hydrocarbons, important as chemicals and fuels: polyol + reductant --(LMOx catalyst)--> unsaturate + oxidized reductant + H2O. We are investigating the reactivity of polyoxometal-complexes and practical reductants with polyols to establish structure/reactivity relationships and reaction mechanisms.
Catalyst Evolution by Dynamic Templating with Transition State Analogs. Catalysis of chemical reactions is essential to the practical operation of most chemical and biochemical processes. We are investigating a new approach to catalyst discovery, dynamic templating of metal complexes with transition state analogs, based on the hypothesis that the most stable metal-TSA complex will be the most active or selective catalyst. We are evaluating the central hypothesis for three important reactions: a) ester and amide hydrolysis; b) ketone transfer hydrogenation; and c) [4 + 2] cycloadditions.

Calculated transition state for Cu-catalyzed amination of toluene
Calculated transition state for Cu-catalyzed amination of toluene

Research keywords: organic synthesis methodology; catalysis; organometallic chemistry