By definition, Organometallic Chemistry (OMC) deals with molecules that have, at least, one Metal-to-Carbon bond.
Although the first OM compound dates back to 1760, the real understanding and mastering of this kind of Chemistry only started with the discovery of Ferrocene in 1952. The identification of new types of chemical bonds and reactions led to an explosive growth of this field until the late 1980s.
Besides chemical curiosity, this growth was also spurred by the breathtaking pace at which new transformations of organic molecules catalyzed by OM compounds was realized.
Indeed, by virtue of the versatile reactivity of the metals, particularly the Transition Metals, the organic fragment attached is activated to react in many fashions that are different to those normally found in the realm of Classic Organic Chemistry. This opened astonishing new developments and reshaped Organic Synthesis and Catalysis.
Following the historical stream, this group evolved from purely structural OMC to Catalysis and presently dedicates most of its research to Catalytic Oxidation.
The ever increasing social, environmental and economic pressures put on the Chemical Industry in order to save energy, use raw materials from renewable sources and reduce/eliminate wastes only increased the importance of Catalysis.
By definition, a Catalyst makes a reaction happen faster. Nowadays this is not enough since this catalyst is also demanded to work at low pressure and temperature, produce no by-products, form only one isomer when several are possible, be cheap and recyclable and all this while running in water as solvent!
This is what Nature already does but in delicate manners that are difficult to engineer to produce the chemicals the Society needs in the MTon scale.
Now that we mention Nature we should also mention that, ca. 10-15 years ago, Vitamin B12 was considered as the only real biological OM molecule. Certainly, it was known that CO binds to hemoglobin, myoglobin and other related molecules like cytochromes. However, this was regarded only as noxious.
More recently, protein crystallography has revealed that a number of enzyme active-centers are actually real OM molecules some very similar to those "cooked" by hard-lined OM chemists several decades ago, even before Ferrocene was discovered.
Even more recently, Medicine has shown that CO is actually a very important molecule in Life, capable of regulating an awesome range of physiological processes, from inflammation to atherosclerosis and ending-up in Alzheimer's disease.
These discoveries came in line with the birth of Bio-Organometallic Chemistry a speciality that has already produced important contributions in medical fields, namely cancer therapy and diagnosis. In line with the overall aims of ITQB the group has seized this opportunity to engage in an exciting new field of OMC.