This area of study combines aspects of organic, organometallic, and inorganic chemistry. Synthesis forms a substantial component of most programs in this area. Mechanistic investigations are often undertaken to ascertain how an unexpected product is formed or to optimize the performance of a catalytic system. Because synthesis and catalysis are central to the preparation of new materials, students who receive an advanced degree in this area have excellent career prospects.
A variety of experimental tools are used in this research area, including X-ray diffraction, multinuclear NMR, UV/visible, infrared, laser Raman, EPR, and mass spectroscopies, electrochemistry, and computer modeling. Students have the opportunity to learn a wide range of techniques on state-of-the art instrumentation, typically applying a range of techniques to the systems they study. Research in this area brings students into frequent contact with faculty and students in other groups, which leads to learning opportunities for students across a wide range of disciplines.
Projects are underway in a wide variety of areas, including the development of catalysts for strong bond activation, mechanistic investigations of hydrogen atom transfer, mechanistic investigations of membrane bound enzymes, and the synthesis and characterization of nanoparticles.
The National Science Foundation-funded Center for Enabling New Technologies through Catalysis (CENTC) is a consortium of researchers from institutions across North America, with the University of Washington as the lead institution. CENTC addresses need for more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly methods of producing chemicals and fuels by studying the activation of strong chemical bonds and developing new catalytic technologies.