Dr. Ken Nicholas

EPSCoR Research Focus: 
Chemical Conversion
George Lynn Cross Research Professor
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Oklahoma
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B.S. | Chemistry | S.U.N.Y. at Stony Brook | 1969
Ph.D. | Chemistry | University of Texas | 1972
Research Interests: 

Catalytic Conversion of Biomass-Derived Polyols to Chemicals and Fuels

 Dr. Nicholas specializes in the area of organotransition metal chemistry, bridging the traditional disciplines of organic, inorganic and biological chemistry. The major theme of his research centers on the unique reactivity of transition metal-coordinated molecules. Nicholas seeks new understanding of this effect in chemical and biological systems, while also exploiting this effect for the invention of new reactions and their application in organic synthesis.

Biomass-derived carbohydrates and polyols are the most abundant renewable chemical feedstocks for potential conversion to fuels and value-added chemicals. Because of their high oxygen content relative to fuel products and many value-added chemicals, efficient and selective catalytic reactions are needed that remove oxygen, i.e. reductions, from these molecules. Following prior studies that demonstrated the ability of Cp*ReO3 to catalyze the deoxydehydration (DODH) of glycols to alkenes by phosphines (Fig. 3, below) the research team has shown that various oxo-rhenium (LReO3,4) complexes catalyze efficient polyol DODH by the more economical and benign reductant, sulfite (SO32-).

Current research efforts and goals include:

  • The discovery of more robust, economical and heterogeneous catalysts
  • The application of the DODH reactions to abundant carbohydrate-derived polyols
  • The evaluation of other commercially viable reductants, e.g. H2 and CO
  • The elucidation of the catalytic reaction intermediates through experimental and computational studies.
Research Assistants Funded by EPSCoR: 

Garry Chapman | Graduate Research Assistant | Georgia, United States | garrychapman@ou.edu

Key Publications: 

Bold items indicate OK EPSCoR-supported research

  • Ahmad, I., G. Chapman, and K. M. Nicholas (2011). "Sulfite-Driven, Oxorhenium-Catalyzed Deoxydehydration of Glycols." Organometallics 30(10): 2810-2818. doi: 10.1021/om2001662.
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  • Vkuturi, S., G. Chapman, I. Ahmad, and K. M. Nicholas (2010). "Rhenium-Catalyzed Deoxydehydration of Glycols by Sulfite." Inorganic Chemistry 49(11): 4744-4746. ACS Publications. doi: 10.1021/ic100467p.
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  • Penoni, A., G. Palmisano, G. Broggini, A. Kadowaki, and K. Nicholas (2005). "Efficient Synthesis of N-Methoxyindoles via Alkylative Cycloaddition of Nitrosoarenes with Alkynes." The Journal of Organic Chemistry 71(2): 823-825. doi: 10.1021/jo051609r.
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  • Zhou, L., D. Powell, and K. M. Nicholas (2006). "Tripodal Bis(imidazole) Thioether Copper(I) Complexes:  Mimics of the Cu(B) Site of Hydroxylase Enzymes." Inorganic Chemistry 45(10): 3840-3842. ACS Publications. doi: 10.1021/ic052121b.
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  • Biswajit K. and K. M. Nicholas (2005). "Copper-Catalyzed Allylic Hydroxyamination and Amination of Olefins with BOC-Hydroxylamine", Tetrahedron, 46: 1451.
  • Stephens, J. C., M. A. Khan, and K. M. Nicholas. (2005). "Cyclopentadienyliron Complexes of Nitrosobenzene: Preparation, Structure and Reactivity with Olefins." Journal of Organometallic Chemistry 690(21-22): 4727-4733. doi: 10.1016/j.jorganchem.2005.06.045.
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  • Srivastava, R. S. and K. M. Nicholas (2005). "Kinetics of the Allylic Amination of Olefins by Nitroarenes Catalyzed by [CpFe(CO)2]2." Organometallics 24(7): 1563-1568. doi: 10.1021/om049336y.
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  • Srivastava, R. S., M. A. Khan, and K. M. Nicholas (2005). "Nitrosoarene−Cu(I) Complexes Are Intermediates in Copper-Catalyzed Allylic Amination." Journal of the American Chemical Society 127(20): 7278-7279. doi: 10.1021/ja044093m.
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Curriculum Vitae: