Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Jon Antilla, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark McLaughlin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Leahy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jianfeng Cai, Ph.D.


asymmetric catalysis, chiral metal phosphate, chiral phosphoric acid, hetero-Diels-Alder reaction, organocatalysis, pinacol rearrangement


Asymmetric synthesis and catalysis is one of the leading research areas in chemistry society, for its versatility and efficiency in obtaining chiral molecules that found the vast majority in natural active compounds and synthetic drugs. Developing asymmetric catalytic methodology is at the frontier in both industrial and academic research laboratories. Enantioselective organocatalysis has emerged as a powerful synthetic tool that is complementary to metal-catalyzed transformations. The development of chiral phosphoric acid and metal phosphate as catalysts has been a breakthrough in recent years. Chiral phosphoric acids have been shown to be powerful catalysts in many organic transformations. Moreover, chiral metal phosphates, which formed by simply replacing the proton in phosphoric acid with metals, have introduced new catalytic activations and broaden the scope of phosphoric acids. This thesis details new highly enantioselective chiral phosphoric acid-catalyzed Pinacol rearrangement and robust alkaline phosphates catalytic system, which utilizes novel carbonyl activation.

The Pinacol rearrangement has long been known to be difficult to control in terms of regioselectivity and stereoselectivity. The initial studies found that indolyl-diol compounds can be treated with chiral phosphoric acids to afford the Pinacol rearrangement with high regio- and enantioselectivity. Over 16 chiral phosphoric acids were screened, and it was found an H8-BINOL-phosphoric acid variant with 1-naphthyl groups at 3 and 3' position was the excellent catalyst. This asymmetric transformation is tolerant toward variety of substituents both on the indole ring and migrating groups.

During the study, it was found that different ways to generate the catalyst had critical effect on this catalytic transformation. Only those phosphoric acids washed with HCl after column chromatography afforded the rearrangement products with high enantioselectivity. And those without treating with HCl were found contaminated by alkaline metals. These "contamination" catalysts were also found active with carbonyl activations.

A highly enantioselective catalytic hetero-Diels-Alder reaction of alpha-keto esters has been developed with chiral alkaline metal phosphates. A calcium 1-naphthyl-BINOL phosphate was found to be the optimum catalyst. A large range of alpha-keto esters as well as isatins can be applied in this alkaline phosphates catalytic system with high efficiency and selectivity. The structure of the catalyst is detailed for the first time by X-ray crystal structure analysis. A proposed Transition state model is provided based on the catalyst crystal structure and Raman spectroscopy analysis.

This methodology was further developed with an asymmetric Mukaiyama-Michael addition of beta,gamma-unsaturated alpha-keto ester. The best catalyst was found to be a magnesium chiral phosphate. And the transformation was found capable of tolerating a wide variety of beta,gamma-unsaturated alpha-keto esters.