The International Symposium on Homogeneous Catalysis (ISHC)
is a biannual event that gathers researchers from all corners of the globe with interest in the discipline. The first edition took place in 1978 in the USA and the most recent editions have been organized in Tarragona (Spain, 2002), Munich (Germany, 2004), Sun City (South Africa, 2006), Florence (Italy, 2008) and Posnań (Poland, 2010). During the 2006 meeting in Sun City, the International Advisory Board considered applications for the 18th edition to be held in 2012 and decided to attribute the conference organization to us in Toulouse. We believe that a major factor leading the IAB to accept our proposal was the announced celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the Nobel Prize of Paul Sabatier (Figure 1), a preeminent Toulouse chemist, by the Toulouse scientific community in 2012. The combination of the ISHC with this centennial anniversary was indeed quite appropriate. Although the Prize was masked under the umbrella of organic synthesis (the official allocution of the Nobel commission was “for his method of hydrogenating organic compounds in the presence of finely disintegrated metals whereby the progress of organic chemistry has been greatly advanced in recent years”) and indeed the Prize was shared with Victor Grignard, another Frenchman who has given an unambiguous contribution to organic chemistry, Paul Sabatier may be considered as the father of metal catalyzed hydrogenation.1
Indeed, although the concept of catalysis and a few catalyzed hydrogenations (for instance with Pt sponge) were already known, Paul Sabatier discovered that ethylene can be transformed to ethane by H2 in the presence of freshly prepared metallic nickel and then went on to exploit his discovery by extending the process to the efficient catalyzed hydrogenation of a host of other compounds (nitro compounds and nitriles to amines, aldehydes and ketones to alcohols, CO and CO2 to methane, and so forth). Sabatier’s discovery remains of current relevance in the context of homogeneous catalysis, since certain aspects of hydrogenation still present considerable challenges (e.g. the desire to hydrogenate prochiral substrates in an enantioselective manner) and there is growing emphasis on the use of the less expensive first row transition metals, including nickel, to develop efficient catalysts.
The 18th ISHC, which was held in the Pierre Baudis Congress Center (Figure 2), included an address of Paul Sabatier’s seminal contribution to catalysis during the opening ceremony. The symposium attracted approximately 380 participants from 34 countries in all continents and included 23 invited lectures, 38 contributed communications, and 227 posters. Although the past editions of this symposium have mostly focused on organometallic catalysis, we have made an effort to broaden the horizons of this edition to incorporate other homogeneous approaches, including organocatalysis, enzymatic catalysis, bioinspired catalysis, nanocatalysis, and heterogenized homogeneous catalysis. This broader vision of homogeneous catalysis matches to a certain extent with the approach of the journal ChemCatChem. The journal also offered us the possibility to edit a special issue grouping together contributions from preeminent speakers at the conference and from members of the symposium International Advisory Board. We have taken up this challenge with great pleasure and were happy to gather together 19 contributions from preeminent scientists, which grossly respect the broadening of the symposium objectives. A good number of contributions focus on organometallic catalysis, including carbon-carbon coupling reactions, hydrogenation, hydrofunctionalization, oxidative aldehyde amidation, polymerization, and H/D exchange. A few organometallic catalytic approaches develop new concepts of interest in the context of energy storage (formic acid generation), or in terms of supramolecular ligands (application to hydroalkoxylation), of bioinspired ligand environments (artificial enzymes), whereas other contributions focus on coordination catalysis and on organocatalysis. We underline the relevant trends in catalysis, such as the use of NHC ligands, ligand engineering for selectivity control, sustainable development, and an increasing focus on less expensive first row transition metals, all of which are well represented in this issue.
We close by wholeheartedly thanking all the 18th ISHC participants who have accepted to contribute an article to this issue for their effort, in addition to contributing to the conference success, and hope that this issue will constitute a useful reference for the ChemCatChem readership.