Research

Structure and Bonding in Transition Metal Compounds

 

Research Interests: The scientific approach of the Berry group is to discover new chemistry of the transition elements through systematic investigations of challenging electronic structures. Projects in the Berry lab typically combine synthesis, spectroscopy, and computations. Group members become proficient in these areas as well as in air/water-free synthetic chemistry, cryogenic techniques, molecular photochemistry, and X-ray crystallography. Typically, students gain an appreciation for all of these areas while specializing in a few of them. 

The themes that bind our research projects together are:

 

1. Explaining Bonding Phenomena that are Novel, Ambiguous, or Poorly Understood.  Projects begin in my lab when we identify systems that present fundamental problems in chemical bonding.  By elucidation of electronic structure, we seek to gain insights that help us to explain unusual physical or chemical properties of these systems. Past work in this area can be read about here

 

 

2. Electrocatalysis for a Nitrogen/Ammonia Economy. In a proposed “Nitrogen/Ammonia Economy,” extensive national and global infrastructures dedicated to the mass distribution and storage of ammonia could be leveraged toward green energy applications and the realization of a zero-carbon energy utilization scheme. Two major catalysis challenges need to be overcome in order to bring a Nitrogen Economy to fruition: electrochemical ammonia synthesis from N2 and water, and catalytic ammonia oxidation for direct ammonia fuel cells that operate at ambient conditions. Our lab focuses on using the unique redox chemistry of metal-metal bonded complexes toward these goals.

 

3. A Center Approach to C–H Functionalization. As part of the NSF Center for Chemical Innovation: Center for Selective C–H Functionalization, we contribute our expertise in transition metal chemistry to help understand fundamental aspects of catalytic reactions that use C–H bonds as organic functional groups. Projects in this area are highly collaborative. Our contributions are in the areas of mechanistic studies, in which we aim to characterize reactive intermediates and interrogate their electronic structure, as well as in novel catalyst development, focusing on our expertise with metal-metal bonded compounds. An example of our work in this area can be found here

4. Relating Electronic Structure to Reactivity. We study systems in which we hypothesize that chemical reactivity can be understood in the context of electronic structure.  Establishing interrelations between electronic structure and reactivity is important as it allows predictions to be made about new reactions. Past work can be read about here

5.Chemistry of Heterometallic Extended Metal Atom Chains. Our fifth area of research focuses on heterotrimetallic extended metal atom chain (HEMAC) complexes. The focus of this project is on the synthetic preparation of novel types of HEMAC complexes which can be used to explore the fundamental chemistry of compounds containing metal-metal multiple bonds. HEMAC complexes are also of interest due to their potential application to the field of molecular electronics. Specifically, HEMAC complexes have been proposed to act as “molecular rectifiers” computationally, but these calculations still require experimental validation. Past work can be read about here

6. Combining Metal-Metal and Metal-Ligand Multiple Bonding. A number of important catalytic intermediates contain structural motifs featuring both metal-metal and metal-ligand multiple bonds. We are developing a systematic approach to studying these novel types of compounds. Many of these compounds are thermally unstable, necessitating the development of novel synthetic strategies under extreme conditions. Two such strategies are: exploring reactions at cryogenic temperatures, and using light to photochemically unmask reactive species. You can read more about this work here