If you took high school chemistry, you probably did a simple experiment in which you dipped pH test paper into beakers bearing various liquids and watched the strip change colors. If it was acidic, the paper turned toward the red end of the color spectrum; if it was basic, it darkened toward the violet end.
If you took more advanced chemistry, you might have learned that bases are substances that can donate electron pairs, and that acids are substances that can accept them. The point is that the two types of chemicals are polar opposites. Until now, according to researchers at the University of California-Riverside, who have successfully made acidic compounds act like bases.
Specifically, they have made boron compounds behave like phosphorus catalysts, by modifying the number and location of the electrons in boron without altering the atom's nucleus.
The goal was not just to turn chemical rules upside down, but to create new catalytic compounds that are less toxic and have useful properties. Catalysts are used to facilitate chemical reactions without being consumed or altered in the reaction. Catalysts have to be bases, but phosphorus-based ones are toxic to end products. Boron compounds can be made to act like bases, but they're unstable.
Rei Kinjo and colleagues at UCR stabilized one of these compounds by adding a carbene, which donated some more electrons. The stabilized borylene could then be used as a catalyst.
"It's almost like changing one atom into another atom," said Guy Bertrand, a UCR chemistry professor who co-authored a paper on the new compound.
The new stabilized borylene could be used to produce a suite of new, non-toxic chemical catalysts, which could be used to make new materials and even new pharmaceuticals. The results were published Friday in the journal Science.
I'm confused. When they say "catalysts have to be bases," do they mean they have to alkaline or do they simply mean they have to be a base on which to build a chemical reaction (figuratively speaking in a structural sense that is).
QL This is a confusing part in the story. Let me know if this helps:
Basically catalysts are often metal atoms surrounded by ligands that donate electrons to the metal (as well as altering the electronic structure of the complex and lots of other cool stuff). The metal then uses its enhanced electronic properties to catalyse a reaction - speeding it up without actually being used.
So ligands for catalysts have to be electron donors, otherwise known as Lewis bases. Lots of catalysts use phosphorus based ligands, but these ligands are toxic. Boron based ligands would be less toxic (?), but until now have only been electron acceptors, or Lewis acids. No good.
Making borane, an archetypal Lewis acid into a Lewis base is not only incredibly cool basic chemistry, but opens up a whole new family of ligands for transition metal catalysts.
...stupid spammers....could you make inexpensive catalysts that could replace platinum based catalysts for carbon sequestring(sp?), would be an intersting way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere?
With this week being slow, when I am stressed at work, every little piece of scientific news is great. Right now I would accept something from North Korea just to have something interesting to read. Isn't the emperor due for a birthday or something, so we can get some great science out of North Korea. I would accept anything, time travel, stabilized quantum manipulation, or even speaking apes.
"Defying chemistry rules" everything can be defied. because there are no rules. Just stupid human beings, even in the science community, that limit theirselves. with idiot terms like RULES. If should get a ruler and whip your ass for that.
So basically, the line between acids and bases is now blurring. I never thought you could transform one into another, you know.
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@Lozzy. I do agree with you on the science about electron structure but have one more thing to add. The boron based catalyst would presumably be less toxic because when the catalyst does break down or gets used elsewhere (when used in whatever manner the phosphorus chemical would be harmful) the boron will still have a different electron interaction with different chemicals despite the catalyst structure.
Also now that I think of it, there are plenty of organic reactions that use bases as the catalyst for reactions and the bases are transformed by striping them of their extra electrons to make them act like acids that want to get those electrons back. The aldol condensation reaction is one if I remember correctly.
Makes me wonder now if its just simply making a base act like its conjugate acid.