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Organometallic Chemistry


The Laboratory of Organometallic Chemistry is presently studying new metal derivatives of carbon monoxide (CO) to be used for the production of renewable energy and as a new class of drugs based on the therapeutic activity of CO.  



Carlos C. Romão
Professor Catedrático
PhD 1979 in Chemistry, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (IST)

Phone (+351) 214469751 | Extension 1751


Research Interests

Description of research program (2500 char w/ spaces) Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas at atmospheric pressure which is usually generated upon incomplete combustion of organic matter or fuels. Electronically similar to N2, it is rather inert and a rare case of an air stable divalent carbon compound. However, in contrast to N2, CO binds to transition metals forming metal carbonyls (MC). The chemistry of MCs has been intensively explored since it allows CO to be used as a source of organic molecules e.g. synthetic gasoline (1929’s). Some metals also catalyze the reaction of CO with water to produce hydrogen.

Almost ideal as a sustainable, (CO from biomass) source of a clean fuel (H2) this reaction cannot be used for massive production of H2 due to thermodynamic constraints. One approach to circumvent this barrier is to develop MCs that catalyze the reaction. The electrons and protons generated can be used to produce electric current by driving a reduction process, e.g. reduction of H+ to H2 or of O2 to H2O, in an electrochemical cell. We are presently searching for such new catalysts and starting to build electrochemical devices for the production of H2 or electricity based on the catalysts that we have already identified.

Widely recognized as a poison, CO also has important beneficial roles in Biology. The perplexing observation (1949) that CO is produced in our body as the result of normal metabolic and catabolic functions led to the discovery that CO is involved in multiple defense mechanisms in physiologic and pathologic situations, e.g. as a strong anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, vasodilation and bactericidal agent. Inhalation of CO gas produces significant therapeutic effects in many animal models of disease and is being tested in a clinical trial of human kidney transplantation. However, the known toxicity of inhaled CO gas at high concentrations, as needed for therapy, poses safety and practicality limitations to its application. This problem can be circumvented by the use of molecules that are able to deliver CO in the diseased tissues in a controlled manner. In this way, the amount of CO needed for the therapeutic action is very small and avoids toxicity. Following our early entry into this field, we are studying the mechanisms that enable MCs to behave in vivo as effective, therapeutically active CO Releasing Molecules, (CORMs). In other words, our aim is to help building a totally new class of drugs for therapy with CO.


Group Members

  • Ana C. Fernandes, Assistant Prof.
  • Carla Reis, Assistant Prof.
  • Jan Honzicek, Post-doc
  • Jose Fernandes, Post-doc
  • João Seixas, PhD


Selected Publications

  1.  Nobre, L. S., Seixas, J. D., Romao, C. C. and Saraiva, L. M. (2007) “Antimicrobial action of carbon monoxide-releasing compounds” Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 51, 4303–4307
  2. Haas, W., Romão C., Royo B., Fernandes A. C., Gonçalves I. “Method for treating a mammal by administration of a compound having the ability to release CO, compounds having the ability to release CO and pharmaceutical compositions thereof”, US7011854

Laboratory's Website

For further information please visit the laboratory's website


Química Organometálica (PT)

Este laboratório estuda a utilização do monóxido de carbono (CO) em duas áreas totalmente distintas: energia e saúde.

Na primeira estuda-se a reacção do CO com água para formar hidrogénio ou eléctricidade tentando viabilizar a utilização de CO (disponível na biomassa) no âmbito da produção de energias renováveis e sustentáveis.

Na segunda estuda-se a produção de medicamentos capazes de tirar partido do papel central do CO em vários mecanismos de defesa dos organismos vivos claramente demonstrado pelos efeitos terapêuticos protectores obtidos com CO gasoso numa série de testes em animais (enfarte de miocárdio, transplantes, esclerose múltipla, etc.). Contornando a toxidicade do CO associada à sua inalação como gás, estes medicamentos devem ser capazes de libertar pequenas quantidades de CO apenas nos órgãos afectados tornando a dose de CO libertada no organismo muito inferior à dose tóxica e, portanto, segura. Os resultados obtidos validam este conceito já patenteado.


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