Organometallic catalysts, though widely adopted in many industrial processes and possess high catalytic activity, may cause heavy metal pollution. The large molecular size of enzyme catalysts limit them to be modified for broader applications. Organocatalysts, designed based on nontoxic organic compounds originating from biological materials like the functional fragments of enzymes, are the green alternative. Professor Yeung and his team have designed a new class of zwitterionic organocatalysts based on an amide anion/ iminium cation pair and successfully developed novel systems that are highly efficient in various chemical processes. He added that the most difficult part of building the systems is to identify a catalyst that is stable under ambient conditions and concurrently provides sufficient catalytic activity in the designated processes.
The economical synthesis routes of the catalysts contribute to their success in the industrial market, and the green catalytic processes which reduce energy utility, waste production, and carbon footprint have seen organocatalysts a possible choice to be used for promoting sustainable development.