NSF Center for the Mechanical Control of Chemistry

PROJECT SUMMARY

Controlling reactions with heat, light, and charge are the foundations of chemistry. In contrast, mechanochemistry–the use of mechanical force to alter reaction rates and pathways–is fundamentally impeded by the scarcity of modern experimental tools for applying precisely-controlled forces, and the lack of a well-developed theoretical framework to guide the use of force to alter reaction pathways. The Center for the Mechanical Control of Chemistry (CMCC) will address this challenge by establishing a fundamental understanding of mechanochemistry, by applying new instrumental, chemical, and theoretical approaches to enable the robust mechanical control of chemical reactions, with an emphasis on  surfaces and interfaces-the locations where force/stress is transmitted, and where synergistic catalytic effects can occur. This will enable the design, prediction, and scale-up of mechanically-driven chemical reactions. In Phase 1, we will develop an integrated approach to a focused set of well-defined, mechanically-active reactions, with the goal of establishing a deep understanding of selectivity and reactivity control, that will be applied to a larger portfolio of more complex reaction systems in Phase 2. This will be accomplished through the coordinated efforts of a highly-integrated team of chemists, physicists, and engineers at Texas A&M, UPenn, UC Merced, Northwestern, and CUNY, in partnership with Argonne National Labs, McGill University, and industry (Dow and Eastman). By unifying and inspiring new mechanochemistry research nationally and globally, the CMCC seeks to make mechanochemistry a potent tool in every chemist’s arsenal.

RESEARCH THRUSTS

  • The Integrated Toolset Program (ITP)

    (Leads: Dr. Jonathan Felts and Dr. Andrew Rappe)

    This program addresses the challenges inhibiting the widespread adoption of mechanical bond formation as a synthetic strategy. The ITP will develop and employ in situ methods and theory approaches to directly probe chemical reactions in the presence of well-defined force vectors and stress states, culminating in the development of novel mechanochemical reactors for tunable at-scale synthesis.

  • Research Thrust 1 (RT1): Force-Driven Pericyclic Organic Reactions on Strained 2D Membranes and Corralled Monolayeers

    (Leads: Dr. James Batteas, Dr. Adam Braunschweig and Dr. Andrew Rappe)

  • Research Thrust 2 (RT2): Force-Driven Perovskite Synthesis

    (Leads: Dr. Robert Carpick, Dr. Danna Freedman and Dr. Ashlie Martini)

  • For both of these research thrusts, the team will investigate a series of mechanically-driven reactions from the nano to the macroscale. Starting at the nanoscale, we will examine reactions at well-defined interfaces, where force vectors and molecular orientations can be controlled. These studies will drive hypotheses for the key factors to control mechanochemistry on the macroscale, which we will test using novel mechanochemical reactors. Cross-fertilization between the ITP and the Research Thrusts will result in more precise and versatile tools for investigating mechanochemistry and a robust understanding of the factors that dictate critically important reaction parameters, including kinetics, functional group mechano-susceptibility, and stereoselectivity.