Like an Enzyme

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Science  29 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5564, pp. 2329
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5564.2329a

Ideally, chemical synthesis would be performed catalytically at low temperature and pressure, with few side products and without polluting solvents. But in reality, aerobic oxidations are particularly tricky because catalysts themselves often become oxidized, limiting their lifetime. Bench et al. have overcome this problem by synthesizing a homogeneous catalyst that contains a heme-like metal center protected within a Teflon-coated sterically restrictive cavity. This pseudoenzyme complex catalyzes the oxidative formation of carbon-phosphorus double bonds, as demonstrated by the coupling of phosphanes with acetone to produce synthetically utile ylides (Wittig reagents) at ambient conditions in air. No decomposition of the catalyst was observed after numerous catalytic cycles. With further modification, this new class of catalysts should be applicable to other substrates, replacing less efficient stoichiometric syntheses. — JU

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.41, 750 (2002).

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