Boyer Research

Releasing energy stored within molecules can have powerful effects: steam bursts from the hard popcorn kernel creating a tasty snack; deploying an airbag can save your life in a collision; and explosives can shift thousands of tonnes of material in an instant.
Explosive compounds, including sodium azide (NaN3, the gas generator in some airbags), TNT (trinitrotoluene) and RDX (the chief ingredient in C-4 explosive) have a high percentage of nitrogen atoms as part of their chemical formulae. This is important because they can release nitrogen gas (N2), which is a very stable molecule making up almost 80% of our atmosphere, which also creates a huge amount of energy.
Our research takes the concept of using the energy from nitrogen release and translates it to a controlled setting on the molecular level using 1‑sulfonyl‑1,2,3‑triazoles: 1‑STs.

Energy Release Applications

1,2,3-Triazoles are cyclic molecules containing five atoms, of which three are adjacent nitrogen atoms. In general, triazoles are stable and successfully used as a way of efficiently joining two molecular fragments together. However, in 1-sulfonyl triazoles: 1-STs, we use a sulfonyl group to carefully tune the reactivity profile. We are developing new reactions so that a tiny amount of catalyst can promote controlled loss of two of the nitrogen atoms from the 1-ST as nitrogen gas and capture the associated energy directing it towards formation of complex products with exquisite control and efficiency.

1-sulfonyl-1,2,3-triazoles: 1-STs

We have applied this strategy to design new and efficient synthesis of tetrahydrofurans: important molecules found at the heart of many bioactive compounds [see publication 12, publication 13]. We then applied this research to complete the first ever synthesis of petromyroxol, a natural molecule produced by the sea-lamprey [see publication 15]. This molecule could play an important part in the way that the sea lamprey finds its way back from open water to rivers to breed and we produced a significant amount of petromyroxol which unlocks the possibility for further study of this fascinating creature and its marine biology. Prof. Weiming Li who is a world-expert in the sea lamprey has more information on his group's website [Li Research Group, Michegan State University].

Tetrahydrofurans Synthesised
compounds made from 1-STs using this novel strategy
Sea Lamprey Petromyroxol
Sea Lampreypetromyroxol

We are continuing to extend this strategy to create bioactive compounds, novel powerful catalysts and next-generation organic materials.