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Keywords:

  • heterogeneous catalysis;
  • organometallic chemistry;
  • silica;
  • surface chemistry;
  • transition metals

Abstract

Surface organometallic chemistry is an area of heterogeneous catalysis which has recently emerged as a result of a comparative analysis of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. The chemical industry has often favored heterogeneous catalysis, but the development of better catalysts has been hindered by the presence of numerous kinds of active sites and also by the low concentration of active sites. These factors have precluded a rational improvement of these systems, hence the empirical nature of heterogeneous catalysis. Catalysis is primarily a molecular phenomenon, and it must involve well-defined surface organometallic intermediates and/or transition states. Thus, one must be able to construct a well-defined active site, test its catalytic performance, and assess a structure–activity relationship, which will be used, in turn—as in homogeneous catalysis—to design better catalysts.

By the transfer of the concepts and tools of molecular organometallic chemistry to surfaces, surface organometallic chemistry can generate well-defined surface species by understanding the reaction of organometallic complexes with the support, which can be considered as a rigid ligand. This new approach to heterogeneous catalysis can bring molecular insight to the design of new catalysts and even allow the discovery of new reactions (Ziegler–Natta depolymerization and alkane metathesis). After more than a century of existence, heterogeneous catalysis can still be improved and will play a crucial role in solving current problems. It offers an answer to economical and environmental problems faced by industry in the production of molecules (agrochemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, polymers, basic chemicals).