Recently the Analytical chemistry group of University of Tartu participated in a cutting-edge research endeavor: characterizing the acidity of some extremely efficient strongly acidic organocatalysts. In the case of the Mukaiyama aldol reaction the best of them (1) worked at low ppm to sub-ppm level, (2) gave excellent yields and (3) high enantiomeric selectivity as well as (4) turnover numbers (TON numbers) of hundreds of thousands (Nature Chemistry 2018, 10, 888-894).

The extent to which these four features occurred together in the same catalyst was so remarkable that the results were published in one of the most prestigious journals in chemical sciences: Nature Chemistry.

The extremely demanding acidity measurements were performed by Dr Karl Kaupmees using the unique non-aqueous acid-base chemistry facility that the group is running. The whole research project was led by the group of professor Benjamin List – a worldwide known guru in the field of strongly acidic catalysts working at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung.
These results are expected to open new avenues in development of powerful new organocatalysts.

(Photo by Andres Tennus: Karl doing acidity measurements in a glovebox under anhydrous conditions)

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