Sunday, November 18, 2012

That Which We Call Rhodium By Any Other Name Would Have Been As Sweet


I introduced my favorite element back here.  Known to others since 1804, I met rhodium around 1982 or so. Rhodium drew my attention as the center of a specific type of molecule, then thought to be the closest man-made thing to an enzyme. Rhodium catalysts made unnatural amino acids such as L-DOPA. What was surprising was that it didn't make d-DOPA.

Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's asymmetric catalysis was a hot new topic. The thinking was that we could imitate nature and mimic enzymes.  Those were audacious and heady times. I can still smell how sweet it was.

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