Professor Thomas B. Rauchfuss was awarded the Ronald Nyholm Prize, given biennially by the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) for outstanding contributions to inorganic chemistry. The prize winner receives £5000, a medal and a certificate.
Thomas B. Rauchfuss
Professor Thomas B. Rauchfuss received his undergraduate degree from the University of Puget Sound (1971) and his Ph.D. from Washington State University (1976). He has studied overseas at the following institutions: the Australian National University, University of Auckland, University of Strasbourg, and the Technical University of Karlsruhe. He is interested in all aspects of the synthesis and reactivity of inorganic, organometallic, and main-group compounds and materials.
- synthetic organometallic and inorganic chemistry applied to biomimetic catalysis, ion separation, and dihydrogen activation
We are interested in all aspects of the synthesis and reactivity of inorganic, organo-metallic, and main-group compounds and materials.
A major interest for our group is environmentally-motivated organometallic chemistry. We are interested in fundamental studies leading to clean fuels. One aspect of this research is the elucidation of nature's methods for making H2, which involves the use of unusual and poorly understood enzymes called hydrogenases. We are working to simulate a range of curious structural features in these enzymes. Other interests include the role of metals in nitrogen fixation, carbonylation enzymes, and methanogenesis.
Because most energy is generated from petroleum, we are interested in new catalysts for removing sulfur from this feedstock. Fundamental issues include the detailed mechanisms of C—S bond cleavage (to separate the sulfur from the organic matrix) and the synthesis of novel compounds as catalysts. A key aspect of C—S bond cleaving reactions is the role of H2. One can appreciate that studies on bioinorganic and industrial chemistry overlap significantly, and we feel there are important lessons to be exchanged between these otherwise disparate themes.
Another area of interest is the design of organometallic boxes, bowls, and tubes. These fundamental structures represent the ultimate nanoscale containers, but rational routes for their synthesis represent a frontier of synthesis. Representative products of this effort are a rhodium-containing bowl based on seven Rh atoms interconnected by nine cyanides, molecular boxes with metals at the corners. The molecular boxes selectively bind alkali metals (at their center) such that the binding of Cs+ is favored over the binding of K+ by more than 104-fold. This selectivity illustrates the advantages of the rigid frameworks versus the usual organic heterocyclic ligands. We are making progress in the synthesis of electroactive cages for sensors and in understanding and controlling the cage assembly processes.
Distinctions / Awards
- Ronald Nyholm Prize, Royal Society of Chemistry
- Fellow, American Chemical Society
- ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry
- Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry
- Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
- Humboldt Foundation Senior Scientist
- Guggenheim Fellowship
- University of Illinois Scholar
- Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship
- Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar
- Union Carbide Innovation Award
In The News
By creating a model of the active site found in a naturally occurring enzyme, chemists at the University of Illinois have described a catalyst that acts like nature's most pervasive hydrogen processor.
Dr. Thomas Rauchfuss, professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Illinois, is an expert on the synthesis of hydrogenase active site mimics. His expertise has been called upon in the latest search for an alternative fuel. See how Dr.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer