Chiral Intermetallic Surfaces for Enantioselective on-surface Synthesis

In order to obtain a desired physiological functionality, e.g. for pharmaceuticals in medicine, it is essential to produce chiral molecules in only one "handedness". This enantioselective synthesis requires catalysts that themselves exhibit chiral structures and/or chiral surfaces. Certain intermetallic compounds exhibit such chiral reaction centers, but their technological use requires a sound molecular understanding of the underlying chiral recognition and enantioselective reaction mechanisms.

Thanks to previous SNF projects we have gained a clear understanding of the atomic and electronic surface structure of intrinsically chiral, catalytically active intermetallic palladium-gallium surfaces and their enantioselective properties. This knowledge of chirality transfer from the surface to molecular structures will now be used to realize enantioselective surface synthesis using three prototypical reactions. By implementing a Suzuki-Miyaura, a Diels-Alder coupling and an Orito reaction, we aim to obtain a general concept of the reaction processes, which will be established primarily by characterization by scanning probe microscopy and photoemission spectroscopy supported by atomistic simulations.

Our work provides fundamental atomistic insight into how heterogeneous enantioselective catalysis works at the molecular level. This forms the basis for the development and technological application of chiral intermetallic compounds for biochemical and enantiomerically pure processes.

Dr. Roland Widmer

Dr. Roland Widmer
Group Leader Chiral Surfaces/ Scientific Instrumentation

Phone: +41 58 765 4745