Porous catalysts are of great importance in the chemical industry. However, as the conventional materials employed are mainly of microporous nature, only very small molecules can diffuse into their pores and reach the catalytic sites. This represents a severe limitation for the fine chemicals industry (e.g. pharmaceuticals) as there the compounds of interest are predominantly large molecules. Hence, there is great interest in, and a considerable economic advantage associated with, developing catalysts with larger (meso-) pores.
In preliminary experiments a major discovery of a new family of mesoporous organometallic catalysts has been made. This allows the application of some known zeolitic transition metal catalytic chemistry to large molecules as well as the development of new materials for use as solid chiral catalysts with the potential to develop new, and/or significantly re-shape existing, industrial processes.
In particular, monometallic and bimetallic organometallic species atomically dispersed (anchored and tethered) on the inner walls of mesoporous MCM-41 materials (pore size ca. 30 A diameter) are to be characterised structurally by X-ray absorption and solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies, and catalytically by GC/MS techniques. Additionally, they are to be synthetically optimised for shape- and stereo-selective catalytic reactions, such as oxidations, epoxidations, oligomerisations and hydrogenations as well as enantiomeric separations.