Research

Research in the Newman group involves the design of new reactions, methods, and processes for the synthesis of important organic molecules. Transition metal catalysis, flow chemistry, and green chemistry strategies are heavily utilized towards this goal. To maximize the impact of our research program, an emphasis is made on practical, industrially relevant reactions that could be of direct use to the pharmaceutical, polymer, biomass, and bulk chemical industries. Students in the Newman lab will get trained in fundamental chemistry techniques for synthesis and analysis of important organic molecules via one of the following subfields:

Catalytic carbon-carbon bond formation

The framework of all organic molecules is made of C-C bonds, so developing more efficient ways of making these linkages is key to the future of efficient chemical synthesis. Our lab is interested in how transition metals such as Rh, Pd, Ni, Ru, and Cu can be used as catalysts for constructing complex structures with minimal generation of waste. A particular focus is how these transition metals can be used to activate typically inert functional groups, opening up new opportunities for rapid construction of complex molecules using novel retrosynthetic disconnections. Application of these strategies focuses on the preparation of molecules of interest to the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and bulk chemical industries. For example, the Newman group has identified how to engage alcohols and aldehydes in carbon-carbon bond forming cross-coupling reactions by a carbonyl-Heck pathway, wherein the carbonyl group reacts analagous to the way olefins are functionalized in the classical Mizoroki-Heck reaction.

Flow chemistry & green chemistry

Over the previous century, chemists have greatly expanded the efficiency by which they construct complex molecules. Despite this, the equipment used for performing such transformations has remained largely unchanged in the same time period. The use of 'flow chemistry' offers a new, powerful strategy for performing synthesis, wherein chemistry is performed by mixing reagents in a flowing stream. This allows numerous advantages over traditional techniques such as greater scaleability, enhanced safety, and access to a greater range of temperatures and pressures. Our lab is interested in using flow chemistry to discover and develop new chemistries that cannot be performed in batch, with a focus on industrially relevant processes that could enable sustainable synthesis of important chemicals. For example, the Newman lab has streamlined a multistep chiral auxiliary-mediated synthesis of chiral esters by telescoping each step together and designing a continuous recycle loop, enabling the auxiliary to be used in substoichiometric quantities.

High throughput reaction discovery

The discovery of novel chemical reactions is an exceptionally challenging goal due to the broad number of variables that can have drastic effects on the reaction outcome. The correct choice of temperature, time, catalyst, ligand, solvent, and additives can all be critical for a successful transformation. Unfortunately, rational selection of some of these variables can be challenging, and researchers must rely on screening a large number of chemical reactions. With traditional technologies, this process is very inefficient, and many very powerful reactions have yet to be discovered because of this challenge. The Newman lab combines rational reaction design with advanced equipment available in our lab and the uOttawa Catalysis Centre to look for novel reactivity between simple, readily available functional groups by high throughput reaction screening.