Why do conventional catalyst design rules fail?

The design of selective and active C–H activation catalysts for direct methane-to-methanol conversion is challenging. Bioinspired complexes that form high-valent metal–oxo intermediates capable of hydrogen abstraction and rebound hydroxylation are promising candidates. This promise has made them a target for computational high-throughput screening, typically simplified through the use of linear free energy relationships (LFERs). However, their mid-row transition-metal centers have numerous accessible spin and oxidation states that increase the combinatorial scale of design efforts.

When are two hydrogen bonds better than one?

Hydrogen bonds (HBs) play an essential role in the structure and catalytic action of enzymes, but a complete understanding of HBs in proteins challenges the resolution of modern structural (i.e., X-ray diffraction) techniques and mandates computationally demanding electronic structure methods from correlated wavefunction theory for predictive accuracy. Numerous amino acid sidechains contain functional groups (e.g., hydroxyls in Ser/Thr or Tyr and amides in Asn/Gln) that can act as either HB acceptors or donors (HBA/HBD) and even form simultaneous, ambifunctional HB interactions.

Detecting strong correlation with ML

Despite its widespread use in chemical discovery, approximate density functional theory (DFT) is poorly suited to many targets, such as those containing open-shell, 3d transition metals that can be expected to have strong multi-reference (MR) character. For discovery workflows to be predictive, we need automated, low-cost methods that can distinguish the regions of chemical space where DFT should be applied from those where it should not.

Moving on up: 3d vs 4d TMCs in DFT

Density functional theory (DFT) is widely used in transition-metal chemistry, yet essential properties such as spin-state energetics in transition-metal complexes (TMCs) are well known to be sensitive to the choice of the exchange–correlation functional. Increasing the amount of exchange in a functional typically shifts the preferred ground state in first-row TMCs from low-spin to high-spin by penalizing delocalization error, but the effect on properties of second-row complexes is less well known.


About Us

The Kulik group focuses on the development and application of new electronic structure methods and atomistic simulations tools in the broad area of catalysis.

Our Interests

We are interested in transition metal chemistry, with applications from biological systems (i.e. enzymes) to nonbiological applications in surface science and molecular catalysis.

Our Focus

A key focus of our group is to understand mechanistic features of complex catalysts and to facilitate and develop tools for computationally driven design.

Contact Us

Questions or comments? Let us know! Contact Dr. Kulik: