Novel Catalysts for Asymmetric Olefin Hydrogenation: Low Cost, Low Toxicity, High Modularity

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 12-2801


Catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation reactions are important to prepare single enantiomer drugs, agrochemicals and fragrances.  Present technologies for such reactions involve catalysts based on iridium, rhodium, platinum, and ruthenium.  These precious metals are expensive, toxic, have fluctuations in supply and pose environmental concerns.


Researchers are Princeton University have developed a novel route towards synthesizing a family of cobalt phosphine dialkyl compounds that are versatile catalysts for asymmetric olefin hydrogenation, and potentially for transfer hydrogenation, hydroformylation, and olefin hydrosilylation reactions.  The catalysts have been evaluated experimentally and proven to be highly active in a variety of reactions.  This new technology utilize terrestrially abundant and inexpensive base metal cobalt and other commercially available precursors for catalyst synthesis, and thus is anticipated to reduce cost significantly in commercial applications by replacing current iridium, rhodium, platinum, and ruthenium catalysts.  Additionally, the modularity of this system is an incredibly attractive aspect of the present invention allowing catalyst evaluation by high throughput screening.



In pharmaceutical, agrochemical, food science, and flavors and fragrances industries for:

·        Asymmetric olefin hydrogenation

·        Transfer hydrogenation

·        Hydroformylation

·        Olefin hydrosilylation



·        Low cost

·        Low toxicity

·        High enantioselectivity

·        High modularity 


Faculty Inventor

Paul Chirik is the Edward S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry at Princeton University.  Dr. Chirik received his Ph.D. from The California Institute of Technology in 2000.  Prior to his appointment at Princeton, Professor Chirik was the Peter J.W. Debye Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University. He is the recipient of several notable awards including: the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society, the Bessel Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Camille Dreyfus-Teacher Scholar, the Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, the David and Lucile Packard Fellow in Science and Engineering, and the NSF CAREER Award.  He is also a member of the Defense Science Study Group focused on technological solutions to problems in national security.

Research in the Chirik group is at the intersection of the traditional disciplines of organic and inorganic chemistry. The discovery of sustainable methods in chemical synthesis is a unifying theme. One area of long-standing interest is the discovery of new reactions for the functionalization of atmospheric nitrogen. A second interest is base metal catalysis and the elucidation of the electronic structure of redox-active metal-ligand complexes with emphasis on the integration of spectroscopy and theory. With these goals in mind, they study transition metal complexes from across the periodic table and use state-of-the-art multinuclear NMR experiments, X-ray diffraction techniques, isotopic labeling, Mössbauer and EPR spectroscopy as well as modern DFT methods to establish the electronic and molecular structures of the compounds and pre-catalysts they prepare.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Cortney Cavanaugh
New Ventures and licensing associate
Princeton University
Max Friedfeld
Paul Chirik
green tech