Department of Chemistry
A headshot

David Bergbreiter

Department of Chemistry
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-3255

P: 979-845-3437
F: 979-845-4719

Researcher ID

Current Activities

Our group explores new chemistry related to catalysis and polymer functionalization using the tools and precepts of synthetic organic chemistry to prepare functional oligomers or polymers that in turn are used to either affect catalysis in a greener, more environmentally benign way or to efficiently functionalize polymers. Often this involves developing new separation chemistry that creatively uses polymers but retains the reactivity of a low molecular weight catalyst, ligand, or reagent. These green chemistry projects involve fundamental research both in synthesis and catalysis but still have relevance to practical problems.

The overreaching theme in our work has been to explore how soluble polymers can facilitate homogeneous catalysis. Homogeneous catalysts are ubiquitously used to prepare polymers, chemical intermediates, basic chemicals and pharmaceuticals. However, the expensive or toxic metals, ligands or catalysts are difficult to recover. Existing separations are both energy intensive and lead to waste streams and existing processes often use volatile organic solvents. Projects underway in our lab explore how soluble polymers can address each of these problems. A particular interest is using the same types of polymers we have used for catalyst immobilization to prepare new 21st century tailored solvent systems, organic solvents that could have the potential for synthesis and tuning that has only been available before with ionic liquids.

We also use functional polymers to modify existing polymers. Ongoing projects involve molecular design of additives that can more efficiently modify polymers' physical properties. We previously used functional polymers in covalent layer-by-layer assembly to modify polymer surface chemistry. A current project involves studies of polymers' in water purification. That work has several aspects, one involving 'smart' polymers that reversibly change from being water soluble cold to being insoluble, separable, and hydrophobic on mild heating. We previously used such polymers to prepare 'smart' catalysts, surfaces and membranes, and to probe fundamental chemistry underlying temperature and salt-dependent protein solvation. Current work envisions these polymers as tools for removing trace organic from water in an energy efficient manner.

Educational Background

B. S., 1970, Michigan State University

Ph. D., 1974, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Awards & Recognition

  • South Eastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award (2017)
  • Regents' Professor Award (2016 – present)
  • Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence
  • Southwest Regional Award (2008)
  • University-Level Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Research (2008)
  • Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence (2006-present)
  • Wells Fargo Honors Faculty Mentor Award (2005)
  • Eppright University Professorship for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence (2002-present)
  • University-level Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching (1997)

Selected Publications

  • "Highly Active, Separable and Recyclable Bipyridine Iridium Catalysts for C-H borylation  Reactions", Hind Mamlouk, Jakkrit Suriboot, Praveen Kumar Manyam, Ahmed AlYazidi, David E. Bergbreiter, and Sherzod T. Madrahimov, Catal. Sci. Tech. 2018, 8, 124-127. This work illustrates how we use soluble polymers as phase anchors in catalysis and synthesis and is an example of the sorts of collaborative research we are doing.
  • "Alternatives for Conventional Alkane Solvents", Mary L. Harrell, Thomas Malinski, Coralys Torres-Lopez, Kimberly Gonzalez, Jakkrit Suriboot, and David E. Bergbreiter, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2016, 138, 14650-14657.  This paper describes the use of liquid hydrocarbon oligomers as safer, greener substitutes for solvents like hexane or heptane.
  • "Using Soluble Polymers to Enforce Catalyst-Phase-Selective Solubility and as Antileaching Agents to Facilitate Homogeneous Catalysis", Yannan Liang, Mary L. Harrell, and D. E. Bergbreiter, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 8084-8087. Two important new concepts described here include the first demonstration of antileaching effects of soluble polymer additives and soluble polymer solvents as well as a demonstration of the potential power of using phase selective solubility of catalysts in minimizing or controlling side reactions.
  • "Soluble Polymers as Tools in Catalysis", ACS Macro Lett. 2014, 3, 260-265. This invited viewpoint article highlights some future directions in how soluble polymers can facilitate catalysis - a focal point of the Bergbreiter research group.
  • "Polyethylene as a Nonvolatile Solid Cosolvent Phase for Catalyst Separation and Recovery", Yanfei Yang, Nilusha Priyadarshani, Tatyana Khamatnurova, Jakkrit Suriboot, and D. E. Bergbreiter, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 14714-14717. Here we described how a narrow PDI polyethylene wax can be used as a nontoxic and nonvolatile solvent, replacing hazardous toxic organic solvents like hexane in a green and sustainable way.