Understanding catalysis

As the field of catalysis grows and spreads into new areas of societal importance scientists continue to gain deeper understanding of what drives reactivity and selectivity. Insights come from such areas as spectroscopic identification of previously elusive active sites and reactive intermediates, modelling of reaction pathways, observation of reactivity trends, and kinetic measurements, to name but a few. In turn this understanding allows a more rational approach to the design of new catalytic systems.

Ahead of the launch of Nature Catalysis, this collection draws together recent work that brings new understanding into homogeneous, heterogeneous, and biological catalytic processes.

Nature Catalysis will join a portfolio of journals at Nature Research that publishes important advances across all of catalysis and related fields.


  • Nature Chemical Biology | Article

    The pyrophosphate analog imidodiphosphate (PNP) alters the reaction equilibrium of human DNA polymerase β, and the resulting increase in the rate of pyrophosphorolysis enables kinetic and structural dissection of this reverse reaction of the enzyme.

    • David D Shock
    • , Bret D Freudenthal
    • , William A Beard
    •  &  Samuel H Wilson
  • Nature Chemistry | Article

    Ligand development underlies many advances in Pd-catalysed cross coupling but has seen limited application in the growing field of Ni catalysis. Now, a phosphine framework is shown to enable Ni-catalysed Suzuki coupling of acetals. Parameterization studies provide structural insight into ligand success and a quantitative model to facilitate further ligand design.

    • Kevin Wu
    •  &  Abigail G. Doyle
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Identifying trends in electrocatalytic activity for carbon dioxide reduction can help with catalyst design, but are difficult to define. Here, the authors develop an electrochemical kinetic model of the process, identifying scaling relations relating transition state energies to CO adsorption energy on metal surfaces.

    • Xinyan Liu
    • , Jianping Xiao
    • , Hongjie Peng
    • , Xin Hong
    • , Karen Chan
    •  &  Jens K. Nørskov
  • Nature Chemistry | Article

    The oxidative prowess of cytochrome P450s has been suggested to stem from the electron-donating axial ligand. Now, a selenocysteine-ligated P450 compound I has been trapped and characterized providing an avenue to examine this hypothesis. Measurements reveal that the selenolate-ligated compound I cleaves C–H bonds more rapidly than the wild-type equivalent.

    • Elizabeth L. Onderko
    • , Alexey Silakov
    • , Timothy H. Yosca
    •  &  Michael T. Green
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Atmospheric CO2 can be transformed into valuable hydrocarbons by reaction with H2, but CO is the favoured kinetic product. Here, Liu and co-workers show that plasmonic rhodium nanoparticles not only reduce the activation energy for CO2 hydrogenation, but also photo-selectively produce methane.

    • Xiao Zhang
    • , Xueqian Li
    • , Du Zhang
    • , Neil Qiang Su
    • , Weitao Yang
    • , Henry O. Everitt
    •  &  Jie Liu


  • Nature | Review

    Our increasing understanding of non-covalent interactions involving aromatic systems is reviewed, and the use of these insights in the design of small-molecule catalysts and enzymes is surveyed.

    • Andrew J. Neel
    • , Margaret J. Hilton
    • , Matthew S. Sigman
    •  &  F. Dean Toste
  • Nature Reviews Chemistry | Review Article

    Transition metal catalysis is well established as an enabling tool in synthetic organic chemistry. Photoredox catalysis has recently emerged as a method to effect reactions that occur through single-electron-transfer pathways. Here we review the combination of the two to show how this provides access to highly reactive oxidation states of transition metals and distinct activation modes that further enable the synthetic chemist.

    • Jack Twilton
    • , Chi (Chip) Le
    • , Patricia Zhang
    • , Megan H. Shaw
    • , Ryan W. Evans
    •  &  David W. C. MacMillan