This summer, I worked under Dr. Karen Goldberg in the Department of Chemistry. The Goldberg group’s research is focused developing new environmentally viable catalytic cycles to transform various chemical feedstocks to more valuable chemical products.
My project was to investigate (hexamethylbenzene)ruthenium catalysts for the Aldehyde-Water Shift reaction (AWS) with various aldehyde substrates. Closely following the Goldberg Group’s overarching goals, the AWS transforms an aldehyde into its corresponding carboxylic acid using water as the oxidant. Traditional oxidation methods for this conversion commonly involve stoichiometric amounts of heavy metal reagents, such as chromic acid, which result in toxic byproducts. In contrast, the AWS requires mild conditions and utilizes water as both a reagent and solvent. The only byproduct to the AWS is H2, an industrially useful product in its own right. Throughout the summer, I synthesized several precatalysts and tested their reactivity with various aldehyde substrates. With all substrates, we found the most successful precatalyst was [(η6-C6Me6)RuCl2]2, a dimer.
Researching in the Goldberg group greatly enhanced my educational experience with real world applications to what I learned in chemistry lectures. Having only been exposed to chemistry in a lecture and teaching lab setting, I learned several chemistry techniques I had never been exposed to. As much of the lab’s chemistry is sensitive to oxygen, I learned how to set up and carry out reactions under inert atmosphere (N2 and Ar), including how to use a glove box and Schlenk techniques. I also learned how to use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and gas chromatography (GC-FID), both incredibly valuable techniques for classifying and characterizing reactions. My time in the Goldberg group only served to confirm my love of chemistry and desire to conduct chemical research. Although PURM has ended, I will continue to work in the Goldberg group on the Aldehyde Water Shift during the school year.