Max Planck Research Group - Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis

Dr. Christophe Werlé - Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis

Dr. Christophe Werlé
Head of Group Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis


Research Group Leader
MPI CEC 'Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis' (since 2019)
Group leader
MPI CEC 'Organometallic Electrocatalysis' – Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner (2017-2019)
Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg – Prof. Dr. Karsten Meyer (2016-2017)
Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung – Prof. Dr. Alois Fürstner (2014-2016)
University of Strasbourg – Dr. Jean-Pierre Djukic (2011-2014)


Google Scholar: Christophe Werlé

ORCID: 0000-0002-2174-2148

ResearcherID: C-8452-2014

Group members

Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis

Since modern society mainly relies on fossil fuels to provide either energy or basic chemical resources, aiming for a sustainable energy or chemical industry system before the depletion of fossil resources is necessary. In this context, catalysis still represents the most powerful methodology yet available to reduce the energy intensity of industrial chemical processes as well as their environmental burden, while simultaneously fulfilling the economic constraints dictated by the market and industrial production.

However, the quest for chemically efficient syntheses of valuable compounds with the recovery and reuse of catalysts, lower waste production, and minimal physical separations is a significant challenge for homogenous catalysis. In order to succeed, it is necessary to develop catalysts with optimum selectivity, modularity, adaptability, efficiency, and sustainability. Because of the variety of transformations, they can achieve, catalytic systems involving transition metals can play this role.

Many highly efficient transition-metal catalysts capable of constructing new bonds and sophisticated materials have emerged. The developments are too numerous to list here but cover everything from hydrogenation and cross-coupling to olefin polymerization, metathesis, and asymmetric reactions. Such catalysts typically consist of a single transition-metal atom stabilized by appropriate (chiral) ligands that promote specific catalytic transformations. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go toward multifunctional catalysts achieving enzyme-like high performance and selectivity in as few steps as possible.

In this approach, the spotlight is on the transition-metal itself – the reactivity takes place at the metal center. The ligands are considered “spectators” that remain unchanged throughout the catalyst lifetime. The steric and electronic properties of the ligands, however, do affect the properties of the catalyst. Furthermore, since the number of transition metal/ligand combinations is limited, a paradigm shift is necessary to design and develop more tunable catalysts for challenging transformations.

In the group of Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis, we are interested in the elaboration, design, and development of molecular multifunctional catalytic systems conceived around the synthetic goal of activating challenging bonds and catalyzing difficult transformations not possible with classical systems. Our expertise resides in the synthesis of (multi-metallic) transition-metal complexes supported by novel ligand architectures and their characterization by both spectroscopy and computation. We are particularly interested in the isolation and characterization of reactive intermediates present during catalysis. These transient species are the keys to understanding catalytic cycles, allowing for further optimization.

Our vision encompasses everything from fundamental organometallic chemistry to the use of green energy to activate elementary building blocks opening new pathways in the reliable syntheses of affordable and environmentally friendly fuels and base chemicals through what we call Synergistic Redox Catalysis.

Open Positions

The group of Synergistic Organometallic Catalysis is always seeking new talented students. Exceptionally qualified applicants are welcome to get in touch with Dr. Werlé at any time. Such enquiries should include a curriculum vitae and a cover letter mentioning eligible fellowship funding agencies to whom you might apply to support your stay in the group. We are more than willing to assist you in the preparation of these applications. In addition, please have two letters of recommendation sent to Dr. Werlé by academic mentors who have previously supervised your work.

Interested candidates for Ph.D. and postdoctoral positions are encouraged to visit our career website site to see current job openings.