In this project funded by the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program in the Division of Chemistry, Professor Frieder Jaekle of the Department of Chemistry at Rutgers University-Newark is studying a new class of polymers that contain the element, boron. Polymers are long chain organic molecules and are found in many facets of everyday life that utilize plastics, including food packaging, structural materials for automotive and aerospace transportation, and lightweight electronic devices. In this research project, Professor Jaekle is developing methods to synthesize polymers that contain specific boron-containing groups and then to utilize these polymers as catalysts for chemical reactions. Major features of these catalysts are that they are stable and easily recycled for further use. Professor Jaekle is training a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students in a highly interdisciplinary research environment. The students are using and maintaining instrumentation for polymer research and education at Rutgers University-Newark. Professor Jaekle and his group are also involved in K-12 outreach activities and the stimulation of international scientific exchange through the organization of international symposia.
Organoboranes are well-known for their Lewis acidic properties. When combined with hindered Lewis bases so-called "frustrated Lewis pairs" are generated that can be exploited in small molecule activation and in various catalytic processes. There are few examples of recyclable versions of these high-value catalysts, though. Professor Jaekle is studying how to attach functional organoboranes to both soluble polymers and polymer resins with easily accessible functional groups. Two target structures are being pursued: (1) highly electron-deficient triarylboranes that in concert with Lewis bases are capable of activating small molecules such as dihydrogen or silanes: These polymers will be tested as catalysts in the hydrogenation and hydrosilylation of imines, aldehydes and ketones. (2) electron-deficient borinic acids and corresponding polymers that are expected to display unusual self-assembly characteristics through hydrogen bonding and Lewis acid-base interactions: These polymers will be tested as catalysts in amidation reactions. Outreach activities involving K-12 students are being planned, including the participation of high school students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds in research through the ACS Project SEED and the organization of Polymer and Materials Chemistry Outreach Programs that involve local schools with predominantly minority students.
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