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Research of the Meggers Laboratory

Summary of Current and Previous Research (PDF)

Current main research topics:

  • Chiral-at-metal catalyst design
  • Sustainable catalysis with iron
  • Stereocontrolled organic photochemistry
  • Stereocontrolled electrochemistry
  • Enantioselective nitrene chemistry

The Meggers laboratory is focusing on the area of asymmetric catalysis, which is considered on of the most economical approaches to satisfy the growing demand for optically active compounds in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. Despite impressive advancements over the past 50 years, important challenges remain with respect to broad applicability, efficiency, enantioselectivity and sustainability. The aspect of sustainability is becoming increasingly central to our research.

We are designing novel chiral catalysts and apply them to the development of synthetic methods. For example, the conventional approach to chiral transition metal catalysts relies on using carefully tailored chiral ligands whereas our strategy exploits the stereogenicity of the central metal upon the assembly of the organic ligands around the central metal (only achiral ligands!). Our group has pioneered the general use of such "chiral-at-metal" catalysts in which the metal center both serves as the exclusive stereogenic center and at the same time acts as the reactive center for catalysis. This chiral-at-metal approach has the appeal of structural simplicity and, most importantly, provides access to unexplored chemical space for novel transition metal catalyst architectures with potentially novel properties.

Some members of this class of chiral-at-metal catalysts, namely bis-cyclometalated iridium and rhodium complexes, are excellent tools to intertwine photochemistry and electrochemistry with asymmetric catalysis, whereas chiral-at-ruthenium complexes developed in our laboratory are powerful catalysts for enantioselective C(sp3)-H aminations via nitrene insertion. Recently, we furthermore demonstrated that earth-abundant metals such as iron are suitable for this approach.

Click here for an overview of chiral-at-metal catalysts invented by the Meggers lab. See poster for a summary of our developed chiral-at-metal catalysis.

Iron constitutes in theory the most desirable metal for transition metal catalysis: It is highly abundant, cheap, and nontoxic. Supported by an ERC Advanced Grant we recently started a new research program on asymmetric iron catalysis, focusing on developing novel catalysts and finding new applications with an emphasis on asymmetric C-H functionalizations. This has already resulted in the invention of a new strategy for the iron-catalyzed asymmetric synthesis of amino acids. See: Nat. Chem. 2022, 14, 566 and Nat. Synth. 2023, 2, 645.

Recent account articles, essays and reviews:

See also Meggers lab research on Youtube:

  • Youtube video introduction to Chiral-at-metal catalyst design in the Meggers laboratory. Click here.
  • Youtube video on our chiral-at-rhodium catalysts applied to asymmetric photocycloadditions. Click here.
  • Youtube video on our chiral-at-ruthenium catalysts and application to nitrene chemistry. Click here.