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Reed Receives Tolman Medal

May 16, 2005 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 83, Issue 20

Christopher Reed, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, received this year's Richard C. Tolman Medal for outstanding contributions to chemistry; the medal was given at a celebratory dinner held last month. The Tolman Medal is awarded each year by the ACS Southern California Section.

Reed specializes in first-time synthesis of molecules. In 30 years of research, he has "shown extraordinary creativity and had an unusually broad impact across both organic and inorganic chemistry," says his colleague Mike Rettig, who nominated Reed for the award.

One of Reed's biggest contributions is in the field of superacids, a field that has had tremendous influence on academic and industrial chemistry. Superacids are sources of positive hydrogen ions that are stronger than 100% sulfuric acid. "Strength" here means the ability to transfer hydrogen ions and influence chemical change in substances that are normally nonreactive to weaker acids.

Reed's research group has prepared a new class of superacids called carborane acids. In a paper published last year (Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 2004, 43, 5352), Reed and collaborators showed that carborane acids are the strongest pure acids currently known. Remarkably, they are also the gentlest acids that are currently known. They allow chemists to add acid to fragile molecules that previously decomposed in acid. Potential applications are in the petroleum and pharmaceutical industries, where acid-catalyzed reactions are critically important.


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