October 2005 Meeting
Basolo Award Presentation
Basolo Medal

Joint Meeting of the Northwestern University Department of Chemistry and the Chicago ACS Section

Basolo Medal


Prof. John E. Bercaw

Centennial Professor of Chemistry,
The California Institute of Technology
Prof.John Bercaw
Topic:   Selective Catalytic Oxidations of Methane:
Keys to the Effective Use of Natural Gas
Date:  Friday, October 21, 2005

Background information about the Basolo Award

NOTE: The Basolo Medal Lecture will be held at 4:30 P.M. - 5:45 P.M. at Northwestern University.
--- The Medalist Lecture is open to the public and admission is free to all those wishing to attend. ---


Northwestern University
Technological Institute
2145 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL
Lecture Room 3

Abstract:     The rising cost of oil and fear of high CO2 levels in the atmosphere are leading scientists to search for cheap alternatives to coal and oil.  Direct aerobic oxidations of methane, the principal component of natural gas to liquid fuels and useful chemicals is an attractive approach.  Unfortunately, the selectivity for partial oxidation of methane with most oxidants, including O2, are complicated by the increasing reactivity of its oxidation products.

Organometallic reagents offer potentially more attractive selectivity, and among organometallic reagents that activate carbon-hydrogen bonds, the "Shilov System", stoichiometric oxidation of alkanes to alcohols by aqueous Pt(IV), exhibits unusual selectivity and better compatibility with oxidants and protic reagents. Using a variety of kinetics, isotopic labeling and stereochemical studies, we have examined the mechanisms of the individual steps of the Shilov cycle. The rate and selectivity determining step of the cycle is the initial coordination of the C-H bond to Pt(II).  A series of bis(aryl)diimine-ligated Pt(II) methyl cations are found to provide better characterized models for the reactive species in the Shilov System. These react smoothly in trifluoroethanol solvent with the C-H bonds of arenes, alkanes, methanol and dimethylether, and the relative rates for these models reactions have been measured. The relative rate constants are found to vary over a relatively small range for these substrates. This non-selectivity is similar to that established for other C-H bond activations at d8 metal centers, and stands in contrast to the higher, but unfavorable selectivity exhibited in autoxidation of methane. Recent results indicate that a truly catalytic variant based on O2 is possible, although turnover numbers are not yet sufficient to be practical.


Professor Bercaw’s research areas include the early transition metal chemistry (complexes of Sc, Y, Zr, Hf, Nb and Ta) and its applications to the Ziegler-Natta olefin polymerization. Also, he studies the late transition metal chemistry (complexes of Pd and Pt) relevant to alkane oxidation catalysis. His work is includes new compound synthesis and subsequent characterization by multinuclear NMR spectrometry and by single crystal X-ray diffraction methods. A key area of study is reaction mechanism studies using isotopic labeling, characterization of intermediates, dynamic NMR techniques, and monitoring of reaction kinetics and stereochemistry. These studies are ultimately directed toward assessing the roles of transition metals in catalysis and developing new stoichiometric and catalytic reactions for converting readily available molecules such as olefins and alkanes into more valuable products.

Prof. Bercaw has received the American Chemical Society awards in Pure Chemistry (1980), for Organometallic Chemistry (1990), for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry (1997), the George A. Olah Award for Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry (1999), and an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (2000). He has also been selected a Chemical Pioneer by the American Institute of Chemists (1999). He was selected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1986) and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1990), as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), and an Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of Chicago (2001).


Location of the dinner
   and general meeting:     
Zhivago's Restaurant & Banquets
9925 Gross Point Road,
Skokie Illinois

Cost:     $34.00 each for Section members and one guest.   Students and out of work half price.   $36 for others.
Basolo Lecture:    4:30 PM - 5:45 PM at Northwestern University
Job Club:  5:30 PM - 6:30 PM at Zhvago's Restaurant

Reception:    6:15 PM - 7:15 PM at Zhivago's Restaurant.  Complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres
Dinner:    7:15 PM at Zhivago's Restaurant
Program:   8:30 PM

Reservations:   (847) 647-8405, or by e-mail: chicagoacs@ameritech.net
                  by noon, Tuesday, October 18

Please honor your reservations. We must pay for all dinners ordered. No-shows will be billed.

From the city: Take Lake Shore Drive North to Sheridan Road into Evanston. Continue on Sheridan Road to the Tech Institute. From the west: take I-88 east to 294 north to Dempster east. Proceed east on Dempster into Evanston. Turn left onto Chicago Ave. and proceed to Sheridan Road. Take Sheridan Road north to the Tech Institute. The Technological Institute is at the intersection of Sheridan Road and Noyes Street in Evanston.

To those attending the Basolo Medal lecture, parking after 4:00 P.M. is available in the lot across from the Technological Institute at the corner of Noyes Street and Sheridan Road. Parking is also available on the side streets just west of this lot--however, observe the posted signs. Car-pooling is always encouraged.

Lecture room 3 is on the first floor of the Technological Institute and is most easily reached by entering through the main doors facing Sheridan Road. The lecture room is clearly marked and there will be signs at the entrance to guide you to the room.

DIRECTIONS TO Zhivago's Restaurant:
From the Tech Institute: Go North on Sheridan Rd. and turn left on Central St. Turn left on Gross Point Rd. and proceed to the restaurant.

From Edens Expressway heading North:  Take to the restaurant.From Edens Expressway heading South:  Exit to the restaurant.

PARKING is free in the lot.


6:15 PM - 7:15 PM Reception:   Complementary wine, soft drinks, and hors d'oeuvres

7:15 PM Dinner:

APPETIZER COURSE -  Fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, breads, fire cracker meat rolls with Asian sauce, calamari and fresh vegetables served family style

SOUP COURSE:  Cream of Mushroom

DINNER COURSE:  Choice of entrée

DESSERT COURSE - Assorted pastries and fresh fruit served family style.

Updated 9/14/05