BioLEC research

Research at BioLEC

The chemical industry accounts for 10% of energy consumption globally, generating 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacture of everyday chemicals and materials. BioLEC brings together a diverse group of researchers with the aim of using light to supercharge catalysts in the way that Nature harvests multiple photons to power reactions. This will enable photocatalysts to drive transformations more effectively and efficiently, thereby reducing this energy burden.

Research in the Center focuses on developing and improving light-powered catalysts and the reactions they facilitate to use in generating specific and valuable chemical products from more stable and abundant starting materials, such as waste matter like sawdust or plastic bags.

We advance towards this mission through research in five thrusts:

Thrust A: Elucidate Thrust B: Amplify Thrust C: Exploit Thrust D: Deploy
Improve existing and uncover new first row metal photocatalysts through mechanistic studies

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Harness the power of multiple photons and electrons to drive reactions

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Emulate and exploit biological systems for new or improved syntheses

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Deploy light-driven approaches to valorize abundant feedstocks and waste

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Thrust X: Experiment
Nurture and develop seed projects and cross-Center capabilities that impact multiple Thrusts. Read more

 

Thrust A: Elucidate

Overview

Improve existing – and uncover new first row transition metal – photocatalysts through mechanistic studies

Research portfolio

Spectroscopy, organic synthesis, inorganic synthesis

Focus: Use unique combinations of advanced spectroscopy to elucidate the mechanisms by which established photocatalysts operate, and implement that understanding to further improve their action. Investigate new, first-row transition metal photocatalysts to find successful candidates for future implementation, and understand how they function mechanistically.

Example publications

Nicholas A. Till, Lei Tian, Zhe Dong, Gregory D. Scholes, and David W. C. MacMillan. “Mechanistic Analysis of Metallaphotoredox C–N Coupling: Photocatalysis Initiates and Perpetuates Ni(I)/Ni(III) Coupling Activity” J. Am. Chem. Soc. (2020). web.

Matthew D. Woodhouse and James K. McCusker. “Mechanistic Origin of Photoredox Catalysis Involving Iron(II) Polypyridyl Chromophores” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 142(38), (2020) web.

 

Thrust A Investigators:

Thrust Leader: Abby Doyle
Jim McCusker
Dave MacMillan
Greg Scholes
Phil Castellano
Garry Rumbles

Thrust B: Amplify

Overview

Harness the power of multiple photons and electrons to drive reactions

Research portfolio

Photophysics, spectroscopy

Focus: Understand the fundamental photophysics of high electrochemical potential generation for photocatalytic reactions; devise sophisticated new mechanisms to harness the energy of multiple photons and multielectron transfers to actuate redox states.

Example publications

Nancy Awwad, Anh Thy Bui, Evgeny O. Danilov, and Felix N. Castellano.  “Visible-Light-Initiated Free-Radical Polymerization by Homomolecular Triplet-Triplet Annihilation” Chem. 6(11) (2020) web.

Remi Fayad, Anh Thy Bui, Samuel G. Shepard, and Felix N. Castellano. “Photochemical Upconversion in Water Using Cu(I) MLCT Excited States: Role of Energy Shuttling at the Micellar/Water Interface” ACS Applied Energy Materials  3(12), 12557-12564 (2020) web.

 

Thrust B Investigators:

Thrust Leader: Phil Castellano
Garry Rumbles
Greg Scholes
Rob Knowles
Barry Rand
Matt Bird
Jim McCusker

Thrust C: Exploit

Overview

Emulate and exploit biological systems for new or improved syntheses

Research portfolio

Biochemistry, spectroscopy, organic synthesis

Focus: Elucidate and employ photophysical mechanisms by which proteins harvest and direct energy. Investigate and design proteins and bioinspired constructs that function as catalysts for new chemical transformations.

Example publications

Kyle F. Biegasiewicz, Simon J. Cooper, Xin Gao, Daniel G. Oblinsky, Ji Hye Kim, Samuel E. Garfinkle, Leo A. Joyce, Braddock A. Sandoval, Gregory D. Scholes, and Todd K. Hyster. “Photoexcitation of flavoenzymes enables a stereoselective radical cyclization” Science, 21, (2019). web.

Andrew H. Proppe, Yuguang C. Li, Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Curtis P. Berlinguette, Christopher J. Chang, Richard Cogdell, Abigail G. Doyle, Johannes Flick, Nathaniel M. Gabor, Rienk van Grondelle, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Shaffiq A. Jaffer, Shana O. Kelley, Mario Leclerc, Karl Leo, Thomas E. Mallouk, Prineha Narang, Gabriela S. Schlau-Cohen, Gregory D. Scholes, Aleksandra Vojvodic, Vivian Wing-Wah Yam, Jenny Y. Yang & Edward H. Sargent. “Bioinspiration in light harvesting and catalysis” Nature Review Materials, 5, 828-846 (2020). web.

 

Thrust C Investigators:

Thrust Leader: Gabriela Schlau-Cohen
Todd Hyster
Ana Moore
Tom Moore
Greg Scholes
Rob Knowles
Jim McCusker
Abby Doyle
Dave MacMillan

Thrust D: Deploy

Overview

Deploy light-driven approaches to valorize abundant feedstocks and waste

Research portfolio

Organic synthesis, spectroscopy

Focus: Design and demonstrate photoinduced cross-coupling reactions using the combined energy of multiple photoexcitations to drive chemical reactions that are prohibitively disfavored at equilibrium. In particular, we target bond activation by organometallic catalysts to produce chemical feedstocks and fuels.

Example publications

Suong T. Nguyen, Philip R. D. Murray, and Robert R. Knowles. “Light-Driven Depolymerization of Native Lignin Enabled by Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer”. ACS Catal, 10, 800-805 (2020). web.

 

Thrust D Investigators:

Thrust Leader: Rob Knowles
Dave MacMillan
Matt Bird
Phil Castellano

Thrust X: Experiment

Overview

A nurturing and dynamic environment for seed projects and cross-Thrust capabilities

Research portfolio

Mixed

Focus: Provide an incubator environment for new projects that are in development and cut across multiple Thrusts. Enable nimble deployment of capabilities that can advance projects across BioLEC.

 

 

Thrust X Investigators:

Thrust Leader: Garry Rumbles
Barry Rand
Paul Chirik