Metals take a walk

Jul 12, 2005

Scientists in the Organic Chemistry Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science have caught a glimpse of platinum-based complexes 'walking' a path to their destinations

Do metal complexes casually stroll around certain molecules prior to chemical reactions? Scientists in the Organic Chemistry Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science have caught a glimpse of platinum-based complexes "walking" a path to their destinations.

Many types of chemical reactions and new materials depend on the integration of metals with organic (carbon based) molecules. Metals, for instance, assist in transformations of chemical compounds, while materials with many kinds of unique properties often incorporate metals into the molecular structure.

The phenomenon dubbed "ring walking," for the idea that these metal complexes might move from point to point around organic molecules (which contain the familiar, six-sided carbon rings), had been deduced from experimentation. But proving that ring walking takes place prior to a chemical transformation had not been successfully attempted before.

Dr. Milko van der Boom thought that understanding the route the metal takes as it moves from one place to another on the molecule might give chemists a powerful tool for understanding and controlling chemical reactions. Olena Zenkina, a student who came from Ukraine for a summer research program and ended up staying to pursue a Ph.D. in Dr. van der Boom's group, used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to track the movements of the platinum complexes.

They were able to determine how these complexes moved in several steps around the structure of fairly simple organic molecules by undergoing weak molecular interactions at certain junctures. The walking stopped upon arrival at the point on the organic molecule where the chemical reaction occurs. The results of their experiment were confirmed in a computer simulation carried out by the group of Prof. Gershom (Jan) Martin, also of the Organic Chemistry Department. Van der Boom and Zenkina are now conducting research into various aspects of ring-walking.

They want to know, for instance, how fast, and how far metals can walk. In addition, they have taken the first steps toward controlling the direction a metal takes in its walk around the molecule. In contrast to today's approach to chemical transformations, which often involves custom designing sophisticated molecules, learning to direct the routes of metal complexes on the way to chemical reactions might provide a simple and effective alternative.

Dr. Milko van der Boom's research is supported by the Henri Gutwirth Fund for Research ; ITEK, Israel; the Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for Molecular Design; and Sir Harry A.S. Djanogly, CBE, UK. Dr. Van Der Boom is the incumbent of the Dewey D. Stone and Harry Levine Career Development Chair.

Source: American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

Explore further: Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Arctic marine organisms capture CO2

Oct 14, 2014

Arctic marine organisms act as a reservoir for CO2, according to research published in the international journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Recommended for you

Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

Oct 18, 2014

Throw a rock through a window made of silica glass, and the brittle, insulating oxide pane shatters. But whack a golf ball with a club made of metallic glass—a resilient conductor that looks like metal—and the glass not ...

Superconducting circuits, simplified

Oct 17, 2014

Computer chips with superconducting circuits—circuits with zero electrical resistance—would be 50 to 100 times as energy-efficient as today's chips, an attractive trait given the increasing power consumption ...

Protons hog the momentum in neutron-rich nuclei

Oct 16, 2014

Like dancers swirling on the dance floor with bystanders looking on, protons and neutrons that have briefly paired up in the nucleus have higher-average momentum, leaving less for non-paired nucleons. Using ...

Cosmic jets of young stars formed by magnetic fields

Oct 16, 2014

Astrophysical jets are counted among our Universe's most spectacular phenomena: From the centers of black holes, quasars, or protostars, these rays of matter sometimes protrude several light years into space. ...

User comments : 0