Bertrand explained that acids cannot be used as ligands to form a catalyst. Instead, bases must be used. While all boron compounds are acids, his lab has succeeded in making these compounds behave like bases. His lab achieved the result by modifying the number of electrons in boron, with no change to the atom's nucleus.
"It's almost like changing one atom into another atom," Bertrand said.
His research group stumbled upon the idea during one of its regular brainstorming meetings.
"I encourage my students and postdoctoral researchers to think outside the box and not be inhibited or intimidated about sharing ideas with the group," he said. "The smaller these brainstorming groups are, the freer the participants feel about bringing new and unconventional ideas to the table, I have found. About 90 percent of the time, the ideas are ultimately not useful. But then, about 10 percent of the time we have something to work with."
The research was supported by grants to Bertrand from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
An internationally renowned scientist, Bertrand came to UCR in 2001 from France's national research agency, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). He is the director of the UCR-CNRS Joint Research Chemistry Laboratory.
A recipient of numerous awards and honors, most recently he won the 2009-20
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University of California - Riverside