2017 Arduengo Lecture: T. Don Tilley


Chemical Transformations with Unusual Metal Complexes of Low-Valent and Hypercoordinate Silicon Ligands
12:45 PM, Thursday, April 13th, 2017
1093 Shelby Hall
(Technical Lecture)

The Role of Highly Oxidized Metal Species in Water Splitting and Solar Fuels Production
4:00 PM, Friday April 14th, 2017
1004 Shelby Hall
(General Interest Talk)


Professor T. Don Tilley
Professor T. Don Tilley

T. DON TILLEY is Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Don was born in Norman, Oklahoma in 1954. After receiving his B.S. degree in chemistry from The University of Texas at Austin in 1977, he completed graduate studies in organolanthanide chemistry under the direction of Richard Andersen at the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D. 1982). Don was subsequently appointed as an NSF-sponsored exchange postdoctoral fellow to work jointly with Bob Grubbs and John Bercaw at the California Institute of Technology (1981-2), and with Luigi Venanzi and Piero Pino at the ETH in Zürich (1982-3). During this period, Don developed the chemistry of the (pentamethylcyclopentadienyl)ruthenium fragment. In 1983, Tilley began his independent research career as Assistant Professor at UC San Diego. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1988 and then to Professor in 1990. In 1994, Don accepted appointments as Professor of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley and as Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Tilley’s research program at UC San Diego focused on organometallic chemistry, and in particular, the chemistry of transition metal-silicon systems. Systematic investigations on early transition metal-silicon bonded compounds demonstrated that d0 metal-silicon bonds are highly and uniquely reactive. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this work characterized “sigma-bond metathesis” reactions as forming the basis for a new polymerization mechanism, by which early metal complexes catalyze the dehydropolymerization of hydrosilanes to polysilanes. This chemistry was extended to the polymerization of secondary stannanes to produce the first high molecular weight polystannanes. The technology was subsequently used to develop homogeneous catalysts for methane conversions. Additional investigations involved the synthesis and study of transition metal complexes with silylene and other reactive silicon “intermediates” as ligands.

In the early 1990’s, Tilley’s research broadened to include studies on electronically active polymers, organic supramolecular chemistry, and materials chemistry. The organic materials chemistry in Tilley’s group focuses on the use of new metal-mediated synthetic routes to prepare conducting, semi-conducting and optically active systems that feature extended conjugation. Supramolecular chemistry derives from the discovery that zirconocene-coupling methods provide high-yield routes to macrocycles and cages of various shapes, sizes, and functionalizations. As a Faculty Senior Scientist at LBNL, Tilley developed a program based on the molecular design and synthesis of advanced materials. Primary targets are oxide-based materials produced from tailored, oxygen-rich precursor molecules. This new process for generating solid-state materials is used in the synthesis of mesoporous materials with well-defined and complex compositions. In addition, Prof. Tilley’s group developed molecular precursor routes to heterogeneous catalysts for selective chemical transformations. This strategy is used, for example, to produce catalysts with good activities and selectivities for the oxydehydrogenation of propane. Molecular precursor methods are also employed for the creation of well-defined, catalytic single sites on the surface of oxide supports. A major part of the current research program focuses on solar energy conversion. Molecular, nanostructured and surface-attached catalysts are investigated for applications in new solar-to-fuels technologies. The primary reactions of interest are water oxidation, proton reduction to hydrogen, and CO2 reduction to hydrocarbons.

While at UC San Diego, Tilley received an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (1988), a Union Carbide Innovation Recognition Award (1991-92), and a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship (1993). At UC Berkeley, Tilley received the Alexander von Humboldt Award for Senior Scientists (1998 and 2015) and was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998). He was the recipient of the ACS award in Organometallic Chemistry (2002), the Wacker Silicon Award (2003), the Centenary Lectureship and Medal of the Royal Society (2007-8), the ACS Frederic Stanley Kipping Award in Silicon Chemistry (2008), and the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry (2014). Tilley was elected Chair of the Division of Inorganic Chemistry of the ACS for 2003, and was named a Miller Research Professor for 2004-5. He was a Visiting Professor at the ETH in Zürich (1998), the University of Montpellier (2000) and the University of Strasbourg (2010). In 2013, he was awarded the Edward Mack, Jr. Memorial Award from The Ohio State University and was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2014, he was named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society. Don has been selected for named lectureships at over 25 of the world’s premier research institutions. Since January 2005, Tilley has served as the North American Associate Editor for Chemical Communications, covering Inorganic, Organometallic and Materials Chemistry. He has published over 430 papers. Don is married to Rosemary, and they have a daughter, Sarah (fashion designer), and a son, Brian (motor sports engineer).