Metals in Synthesis

Module code: CH3205

The key to efficient and sustainable synthetic methods is to minimise energy use and maximise reaction selectivity. This is often done by using main group and transition metal compounds to control selectivity and in many cases make the reactions catalytic. In this module, you'll look at some of the key areas and principles of applications of metals in synthesis including catalysis.

Topics covered

  • The important features of the use of transition and main group elements in stoichiometric and catalytic organic synthesis and how they can alter reactivity.
  • The synthetic chemistry of silicon, selenium, lithium, boron and aluminium, and the selectivity seen in their reactions.
  • Catalysis and the effect of a catalyst on the free energy of a reaction. Use of turnover number and turnover frequency as measures of catalytic efficiency.
  • How spectroscopy, kinetics and labelling studies can be used to elucidate reaction mechanisms
  • Recognise the key reaction steps in mechanisms of metal catalysed reactions
  • Transition metal catalysed processes, including hydrogenation of alkenes and carbonyl compounds, Wacker oxidation of alkenes, metathesis, cyclopropanation, cross-coupling reactions and nucleophilic attack on unsaturated substrates.
  • Asymmetric catalysis


  • 33 hours of lectures
  • 117 hours of guided independent study


  • Coursework (25%)
  • Exam, 2 ½ hours (75%)