Frustrated Lewis Pairs

Douglas Stephan
University of Toronto

For the last century, chemists have used metals to mediate the synthesis of organic compounds. While metals are versatile, they are often expensive and toxic and costly to remove. In 2006, we made a discovery that has opened a new door to the use of main group compounds for such applications.  Many of the main group elements are more readily available and much less toxic. Thus the prospect of using these materials offers a route to potential “greener”, more sustainable avenues to produce many of the materials of modern life. Our initial discovery found that simple combinations of compounds known as Lewis acids and bases designed to avoid acid-base quenching can activate H2. This concept known as “frustrated Lewis pairs” (FLPs), has led to the development of metal-free routes to the addition of hydrogen to a wide range of organic compounds. Research targeting the design of new FLP catalysts has uncovered a range of main-group catalysts, while the concept of FLPs has also been applied to the chemistry of a variety of other small molecule activations, including CO2 and N2. These developments set the stage for the evolution of main group catalysts and their commercial applications in the future.

Douglas Stephan

After undergraduate and graduate studies at McMaster University and University of Western Ontario, he was a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. R. H. Holm at Harvard University.  In 1982, he began a faculty position at the University of Windsor. He quickly rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming a Full Professor in 1992 and University Professor in 2002. In 2008 he took up a position as Professor of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Inorganic Materials and Catalysis at the University of Toronto.

Doug has published over 470 papers spanning transition metal and main group chemistry. In the late 1990’s, his group developed catalysts for olefin polymerization that were commercialized. In 2006, his discovery of the paradigm shifting concept of “Frustrated Lewis Pairs” has spawned numerous application of FLPs in catalysis.

Stephan work has received numerous recognitions including several Canadian and international awards Most notably, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London as well as a Corresponding Member of North-Rhein-Westfaelia Academy and an Einstein Visiting Fellow at TU Berlin. He is named to the Thompson-Reuters highly cited researchers for the last 4 years. and to the list of “most influential minds”.

Prof. dr. Douglas Stephan

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