Complexes of N-heterocyclic carbenes for hydro-functionalization reactions

Structures of Cu-NHC Complexes. Note that the same structures are available for Ag-NHC and Au-NHC

Invention Summary:

Unsymmetrical N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) hold pivotal significance in modern catalysis and material science due to their versatile and tunable properties. Their unique electronic and steric attributes enable tailored interactions with metal catalysts, enhancing catalytic activity and selectivity. However, synthesizing NHCs poses challenges due to their air and moisture sensitivity, necessitating rigorous conditions and specialized equipment.

Rutgers researchers have developed a unique method of preparation of a novel catalyst complex of unsymmetrical NHCs with group 11 metals (Cu, Au, Ag). This catalyst has demonstrated higher reactivity in various types of chemical reactions and have also shown excellent functional group tolerance (halides, nitro, cyano, polar heterocycles). This approach allows for (1) significantly improved synthesis of sterically bulky NHC ligands, which is one of the major challenges in catalyst synthesis; (2) facile introduction of the peripheral substitution, such as chelating functions on the N-wingtip ring; and (3) exploration of new ligand space unavailable in classical symmetrical imidazolylidene and related NHC ligands. 

Market Applications:

This catalyst can be used for the synthesis of

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Fine chemicals
  • Functional materials
  • Polymers


  • High chemical reactivity compared to current most powerful catalyst ([Cu(IMes)Cl]).
  • Flexible adjustments of steric hindrances around the metal center.

Intellectual Property & Development Status: US Patent filed WO 2022/187205 A1. Available for licensing and/or research collaboration. For any business development and other collaborative partnerships contact

Patent Information:
Deborah Perez Fernandez
Acting Executive Director
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey