+44 (0)131 451 8030
Room 1.21
William Perkin Building
Heriot-Watt University
Ai-Lan Lee
Roles and responsibilities
  • MChem Study Director
  • Deputy Head of Molecular Chemistry research grouping

Synthesis and Catalysis

Our research interests are inter-disciplinary and centre around the areas of organic synthesis, organometallic and asymmetric catalysis (with particular emphasis on gold and palladium) and rotaxanes. Areas of interest include:

1. Gold Catalysis

In the past decade, gold has emerged as a powerful catalyst for the electrophilic activation of carbon-carbon π bonds. Gold catalysis represents a new frontier in catalysis with scope for further discoveries and development, particularly in the field of asymmetric gold catalysis. We are interested in the development of novel gold catalysed reactions with the aim of expanding the current toolkit of synthetic techniques. Recent highlights from our group include developing novel gold-catalysed reactions with cyclopropenes, allenes and allylic alcohols.

Figure 1. Gold(I)-Catalysed Direct Allylic Etherification of Unactivated Alcohols.

2. Palladium Catalysis

Our research in this area centres around development of Pd(II)-catalysed reactions, particularly on challenging substrates. We have recently developed a mild and ligand free cationic Pd(II) system for conjugate additions to hindered γ-substituted cyclohexenones. We have also developed a ligand- and base-free Pd(II)-catalysed controlled switching between oxidative Heck and conjugate addition reactions. Current work in the group centres around the development and further applications of the cationic Pd(II) system.

Figure 2. Pd(II)-Catalyzed Controlled Switching between Oxidative Heck and Conjugate Addition Reactions.

3. New gold complexes for catalysis

Apart from developing new gold-catalysed reactions, we are also interested in developing new gold complexes for catalysis. Projects include:

(a) Mesoionic N-Heterocyclic Carbene (NHC) Complexes.

 Novel gold(I) ‘‘click’’ carbene(1,2,3-triazolylidene) complexes and their applications in catalysis.

(b) Gold(III)-oxo complexes for catalysis.

(c) Digold complexes and their role in the deactivation of gold catalysts.

Figure 3. Crystal structure of a Au(I)-1,2,3-triazol5-ylidene precatalyst.



Selected publications
  1. Gold(I)-Catalysed Direct Allylic Etherification of Unactivated Alcohols'. P. C. Young, N. A. Schopf, A.-L. Lee, Chem. Commun., 2013, 49, 4262.
  2. Ligand- and Base-Free Pd(II)-Catalyzed Controlled Switching between Oxidative Heck and Conjugate Addition Reactions'. S. E. Walker, J. Boehnke, P. E. Glen, S. Levey, L. Patrick, J. A. Jordan-Hore, A.-L. Lee, Org. Lett., 2013, 15, 1886.
  3. Gold(I) "Click" 1,2,3-Triazolylidenes: Synthesis, Self-assembly and Catalysis'. K. J. Kilpin, U. S. D. Paul, A.-L. Lee, J. D. Crowley, Chem. Commun., 2011, 47, 328.
  4. Regioselective Synthesis of tert-Allylic Ethers via Gold(I)-Catalyzed Intermolecular Hydroalkoxylation of Allenes'. M. S. Hadfield, A.-L. Lee, Org. Lett., 2010, 12, 484
  5. Gold Catalysed Reactions with Cyclopropenes'. J. T. Bauer, M. S. Hadfield, A.-L. Lee, Chem. Commun., 2008, 6405.
Further information

Lee Group Webpage