Bio-inspired Catalysis and Biocatalysts for Synthesis


Nature uses exquisitely tuned enzyme systems to catalyse reactions that are difficult or impossible using current chemical catalysts. Non-heme iron oxidases are iron-based enzyme catalysts that convert simple hydrocarbons (alkanes, alkenes) to oxidised products (alcohols, epoxides, amines) with exquisite selectively and supreme efficiency. This project will develop small-molecule iron-based catalysts that mimic these enzymatic reactions (bio-inspired or biomimetic catalysis) and use the biological catalysts themselves to oxidise hydrocarbon substrates (biocatalysis).


Associate Professor Peter Rutledge

Research Location

School of Chemistry

Program Type



The development of efficient, selective methods to functionalise C–H bonds is an area of great interest in organic chemistry. Iron has great potential in this area due to its availability, affordability and ability to promote a range of oxidative chemistry. We have recently reported a number of novel organic ligands that combine with iron(II) and hydrogen peroxide to oxidise hydrocarbon substrates (see for example DOI: 10.1016/j.tet.2012.02.031 or DOI: 10.1039/b921934j) and a new biocatalytic system for alkene epoxidation (see DOI: 10.1007/s00253-012-3975-6). The aims of this project are (i) to create new bio-inspired catalysts to drive hydrocarbon oxidation (bio-inspired catalysis); and (ii) to explore and develop the potential of our new biocatalyst for alkene epoxidation using directed evolution and gene knock-out strategies (biocatalysis – in collaboration with Dr Nick Coleman, School of Molecular Biosciences, University of Sydney).

Additional Information

Working on this project, you will use peptide synthesis and a range of spectroscopic methods to characterise the new systems, including 1H and 13C NMR and IR, mass spectroscopy, EPR, XAFS and gas chromatography. You will also have the opportunity to develop further skills in coordination chemistry and crystallography. Prior experience in one or more of these areas would be an advantage but is not required. Laboratory costs (chemicals, consumables, spectroscopy) will be covered through existing funding in the group, however direct funding for fees or scholarships is not currently available from within the group. Australian and New Zealand citizens should apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award; International Students should apply for scholarship funding through the International Office and Science Faculty schemes.

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Keywords : biocatalysis, biomimetic, catalysis, epoxidation, oxidation, non-heme iron, mono-oxygenase

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1551

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