Propellanes are molecules of high importance as precursors to valuable cage molecules in pharmaceutical and materials research. For smaller-ring propellanes, ubiquitous reactivity can be displayed towards anions, radicals, and cations; however, the theoretical basis for this unusual behaviour has only recently emerged, which is based on the ability of small ring propellanes to delocalise electron density away from the electron-rich central C–C bond onto the peripheral carbon atom p orbitals both in the ground state, and during reactions. In this project we develop chemical tools to test this theoretical model, offering experimental support and characterising the change in structure and electronics during ring opening processes. We further develop new synthetic methodology to access high-value (but hard to access) chiral propellane ring-opening products, and explore new modes of propellane reactivity by employing novel catalytic concepts to activate the central C–C bond. We use a theoretical 'carbene' description of [1.1.1]propellane to open up access to bridge-substituted propellanes, which represent a 'holy grail' of the field, and also explore methods to control the dimerisation or oligomerisation of these molecules. Collectively, using the most up to date theoretical models (and in collaboration with theoretical chemists) we aim to develop a new frontier of propellane chemistry, which has the potential for broad impact on its many applications.
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