A group of previously inaccessible catalysts - abnormal N-heterocyclic carbenes - have been synthesized by Guy Bertrand and his team at the University of California, Riverside. Carbenes are usually unstable and readily form metal-carbene complexes with catalytic activity. Trouble is the metals used in metal-carbene complexes by the pharmaceutical require expensive metals such as rhodium, gold, platinum or palladium. Now, Bertrand's team has successfully created "aNHCs" that are metal-free and can be used subsequently to make any desired complex. The work could have a huge impact on the field of catalysis.
Making impossible catalysts