How did the collaboration on this project start?
Strange but true! Two teams from Moscow started to discuss their “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, using William Blake's terminology, quite far from home, when three of the current paper's coauthors participated in XXV ICOMC in Lisbon. As we know today, it was definitely worth to fly over the whole of Europe, as the ambition of the synthetic group of A. Bilyachenko and M. Levitsky was successfully complemented by the experience of the catalytic group G. Shul'pin. Probably, the next scientific meeting somewhere outside Eurasia could provide an even bigger impulse for our collaboration, who knows?
What aspects of this project do you find most exciting?
It is quite symbolic that this newest kind of metallasilsesquioxane cages (“Cooling Tower”) reached a new horizon with the catalytic application of those compounds. The earliest catalytic trials on polyhedral metallasilsesquioxanes were performed almost 25 years ago, and numerous publications elucidating significant progress in the field are available, but as far as we know, our article is the first one involving catalysis of oxidation reactions. Another brick in the wall? We are glad to think so.
Is your current research mainly curiosity-driven (fundamental) or rather applied?
When we started our collaboration, we hoped to succeed in developing low-cost and ecologically friendly catalytic systems for oxidation reactions of C–H compounds. From this perspective, our research can be considered as applied. However, we treat our work as a basic (fundamental) study as well, as far as we have new knowledge not just in catalysis but in some understanding of the mystery of the synthesis/assembling/supramolecular packing of cage-like metallasilsesquioxanes. So, the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between...