Dominik winner of Dow Sustainability & Innovation Student Challenge 2011

Dominik Jantke, a PhD Student in the BOC-Labs is one of the three selected winners of the KAUST Dow Sustainability & Innovation Student Challenge 2011.

We congratulate Dominik for winning the KAUST finals of against very strong competitors. Dominik presented a project he conducted jointly with Alexander Marziale, who just graduated in June. During their investigations they noticed that Suzuki cross-coupling reactions at room temperature in water always stopped at roughly 50 % conversion. Based on detailed studies they were able to show that incomplete conversion resulted from the formation of a solid product-phase trapping the catalyst. Instead of being discouraged, they realized that the formation of a separate product phase could be utilized for development of a sustainable catalytic protocol, which does not require any organic solvents during the complete synthetic process. After optimization of catalyst and reaction conditions, they were able to establish a highly useful protocol for Suzuki type cross-coupling reactions, which not only worked at room temperature, in water and under air, but also allowed isolation of pure products by filtration in up-to quantitative yields.

The observation that organic products form a separate layer in the end of a reaction, if water is used as a solvent presumably has been made many times in other laboratories before, yet apparently was ignored. However, due to the originality of Dominik and Alexander, they were able to make intelligent use of the distinct properties of the "green" solvent water and turned a rather annoying fact – stop of a reaction at moderate conversions - into an advantage, which might become a new paradigm in Green Chemistry: using water enabling product-separation by simple filtration circumventing the use of organic solvents.

Dominik will represent KAUST together with two other students in the global final, taking place in Berkeley in the beginning of October.

Congratulations, Dominik - and also good luck Alex for your future endeavors!