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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R021481/1
Title: Axonium ions - a new tool for organocatalysis and molecular recognition.
Principal Investigator: Knipe, Dr P C
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemistry and Chemical Eng
Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 March 2018 Ends: 28 February 2019 Value (£): 99,123
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Asymmetric Chemistry Catalysis & Applied Catalysis
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
13 Dec 2017 EPSRC Physical Sciences - December 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Many molecules exist as two possible mirror image isomers (enantiomers). Methods to selectively form one enantiomer over the other are vital for the synthesis of fine chemicals and materials. Nowhere is the importance of such methods more apparent than in medicines: the infamous thalidomide tragedy came about due to the drug being administered as a mixture of enantiomers, one of which had the desired sedative effect while the other acted as a teratogen. Of particular value are catalytic methods for forming molecules as a single enantiomer, since the catalyst can be used many times, minimizing the cost and environmental impact of the chemical reaction.

This project seeks to develop an entirely new type of catalyst for enantio-selective synthesis - 'axonium ions'. These catalysts bear a positive charge, and are designed to catalyze reactions involving negatively charged substrates - a mode-of-action known as 'phase-transfer catalysis'. All current catalysts use hydrogen bonding as the 'glue' holding together the positive catalyst and negative substate: axonium ions will use previously unexploited anion-pi interactions. Here, the negative charge of the substrate forms a bond with an electron-deficient pi system. Since this is distinct from all known phase-transfer catalysts, it will significantly expand on the scope of these reactions.

The synthesis of axonium catalysts is much shorter than that of the current state-of-the-art phase-transfer catalyst, so their use provides an environmentally and economically appealing method for the synthesis of complex molecules as a single enantiomer. The unique structure and interactions of axonium salts also lend them to a range of other applications including use as chemical sensors, photocatalysts and medicines for conditions including cystic fibrosis, areas which we will explore as part of this ongoing research programme.

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Organisation Website: http://www.qub.ac.uk