New synthetic catalysts could offer protection against biothreats

Scientists recently developed a catalyst using their knowledge of quantum mechanics that could be used to protect warfighters against chemical and biological threats more quickly and efficiently.

As part of a Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department (DTRA CB)/Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO)-funded research effort, researchers from Temple University and the University of California at Los Angeles accomplished a series of catalytic reactions using spiroligomers. Spiroligomers are small, non-neutral, shape-programmable scaffolds. By learning to develop and control the catalysts, the researchers may open the door to developing catalysts for chemical and biological defense, reports.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the scientists developed a catalyst that accelerated the aromatic Claisen rearrangement, an important carbon-carbon bond forming reaction. The reaction is a model towards the understanding of how enzymes work.

After developing a series of molecules, the researchers determined which synthetic catalysts resulted in the largest accelerations of the aromatic Claisen rearrangement.

The scientists began their efforts five years ago after demonstrating a method to synthesize shape-programmable spiroligomer macromolecules. The latest study represented the third DTRA-funded catalyst for the aromatic Claisen rearrangement.

Going forward, the researchers plan to construct larger spiroligomer scaffolds, allowing more complex active sites to be displayed based on the ideas developed in earlier works, reports.