‘Miracle’ on ice as chemists pull nanocatalyst paper that fizzled

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

God giveth miracles … and it seems she taketh them away as well.

A group of chemists in China has lost a 2018 paper which described a “miraculous” discovery that wasn’t. 

The paper was titled “A miraculous chiral Ir–Rh bimetallic nanocatalyst for asymmetric hydrogenation of activated ketones,” and it appeared in Organic Chemistry Frontiers, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  

The authors, from the State Key Laboratory of Fine Chemicals at Dalian University of Technology, purported to show that: 

A chiral Ir–Rh bimetallic nanocatalyst was synthesized and applied in the asymmetric hydrogenation of activated ketones to chiral secondary alcohols with up to >99% ee, even in a scale-up reaction. More importantly, the catalyst could be reused 6 times with no loss in catalytic performance and metal leaching. Remarkably, the effect of the molar ratio of Ir to Rh is very significant.

Alas, like most miracles, this one wilted under scrutiny. According to the notice

We, the named authors, hereby wholly retract this Organic Chemistry Frontiers article due to concerns with the reliability of the NMR spectra in the published article. Upon repetition of the experiments, the authors found that the 1H-NMR spectra of compounds 1 and 2 provided in the published article were different in splitting pattern and/or chemical shifts from their duplicated experiments. As the findings are unreliable, we are therefore retracting this article to maintain the accuracy of the scientific record.

We emailed the corresponding author, Yanhua Wang, for comment but have yet to hear back.

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3 thoughts on “‘Miracle’ on ice as chemists pull nanocatalyst paper that fizzled”

  1. The NMR spectra look like they were generated by the ChemDraw Software prediction routine (they are way too clean), in which case there can be no original data available.
    The statement in the retraction: “the authors found that the 1H-NMR spectra … were different in splitting pattern…” gives the wrong impression that the original NMR data existed at one point in time, but looked different. Maybe someone wanted to safe face.

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