In the Pringle Group, our research focuses on the chemistry of phosphorous-based molecules and particularly their applications as ligands for both catalytic and medicinal purposes. We are particularly interested in designing phosphorus(III) ligands in which the P atom is in an unusual stereoelectronic environment. This should lead to unconventional coordination chemistry and hopefully exciting new discoveries. The success of this philosophy can be judged from the descriptions of recent publications and patents from the group.
Phosphorus ligands can be designed with a precision that is unmatched by any other class of ligand. For bidentate phosphorus(III) ligands (see here) the stereoelectronics of the P(III) donor are determined by the R substituents and the rigidity and span of the backbone.
The subtlety of both homogeneous catalysis and drug development means that even small changes in the bonding characteristics or shape of the P(III) ligand can have a profound effect on the activity and selectivity of the resulting compound.
Designing ligands can sometimes be as much an art as a science – certainly imagination and intuition play a major role in innovation in this field!