Carnegie Mellon University

Terrence Collins

Terrence J. Collins

Teresa Heinz Professor in Green Chemistry, Chemistry
Director, Institute for Green Science


1978     Doctor of Philosophy, University of Auckland


Green chemistry, green oxidation catalysis in water, inorganic chemistry, biomimetic chemistry of peroxidase enzymes, mechanisms of oxidation catalysis, novel approaches to water purification


Design of Green Oxidation Catalysts

We design homogeneous oxidation catalysts to activate the natural oxidants, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. By following an iterative design protocol, we have developed TAML activators with iron as the active metal that are outstanding peroxidase mimics, but are only about 1% the size of the enzymes. Peroxidase enzymes are distributed widely in nature and activate hydrogen peroxide to oxidize organic substrates. We are continuing to develop our insight into how to control catalyst lifetime, reactivity and selectivity via ligand design and are producing new peroxidase mimics with targeted reactivity features. Students learn to design high performance oxidation catalysts and to apply synthetic organic and inorganic chemistry to enable their design work.

Mechanisms of Action of Green Oxidation Catalysts

In water with hydrogen peroxide (or some other oxidizing agents), TAML activators produce exceptionally strong oxidizing systems that generally perform rapidly and are capable of large turnover numbers. The reaction chemistry is usually highly efficient in hydrogen peroxide use and appears to be primarily non-radical in nature. We design ways to kinetically isolate the various steps in the complex catalytic cycle and then measure the rate behavior as we work to construct a full quantitative picture of the catalysis. Students learn how to perform kinetic studies on complex catalytic systems including stopped-flow and conventional techniques.

Developing Potential Applications of Green Oxidation Catalysts

TAML activators do their catalytic work at remarkably low concentrations, low micromolar to nanomolar. By using design understanding informed by mechanistic insight, we have been able to produce variants that oxidize many pollutants in water over a wide range of reaction conditions. The list includes persistent chlorinated phenols, natural and synthetic estrogens, active pharmaceutical agents, dyes and colored lignin fragments, chemical warfare agents, persistent explosives residuals, pesticides, and colored and smelly pollutants from the pulp and paper industry. High performance disinfection of hardy pathogens including bacterial spores and clostridia has also been discovered. Students learn how to follow these processes using a range of analytical techniques.


A multidisciplinary investigation of the technical and environmental performances of TAML/peroxide elimination of Bisphenol A compounds from water
Yusuf Onundi, Bethany A. Drake, Ryan T. Malecky, Matthew A. DeNardo, Matthew R. Mills, Soumen Kundu, Alexander D. Ryabov, Evan S. Beach, Colin P. Horwitz, Michael T. Simonich, Lisa Truong, Robert L. Tanguay, L. James Wright, Naresh Singhal  and Terrence J. Collins, Green Chemistry, 2017, 19, 4234–4262, Published as open-access; DOI: 10.1039/c7gc01415e

Analysis of Hydrogen Atom Abstraction from Ethylbenzene by an Fe(V)O(TAML) Complex
Longzhu Shen, Soumen Kundu, Terrence J. Collins and Emile L. Bominaar, Inorg. Chem., 2017, 56 (8), pp 4347–4356, DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.6b02796

Science in support of systematic leadership towards sustainability
Göran Broman, Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Terrence J. Collins, George Basile, Rupert J. Baumgartner, Tobias Larsson, Donald Huisingh, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 140, Part 1, 2017, Pages 1-9, ISSN 0959-6526,

Sustainable Chemistry: Addressing the challenges of low dose adverse effects by everyday-everywhere chemicals through remediation of contaminants and design of safe products
Genoa R. Warner and Terrence J. Collins, In Integrative Environmental Medicine, 2017, Aly Cohen, Frederick Vom Saal (Ed); Andrew Weil (Series Ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford: 978-0-19-049091-1 (ISBN).

Targeting of High-Valent Iron-TAML Activators at Hydrocarbons and Beyond
Terrence J. Collins and Alexander D. Ryabov, Chemical Reviews 2017 117 (13), 9140-9162, DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.7b00034

Iron(III) Ejection from a “Beheaded” TAML Activator: Catalytically Relevant Mechanistic Insight into the Deceleration of Electrophilic Processes by Electron Donors
Matthew R. Mills, Longzhu Q. Shen, David Z. Zhang, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, Inorganic Chemistry 2017 56 (17), 10226-10234, DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.7b00921

Homogeneous Catalysis Under Ultra-Dilute Conditions: TAML/NaClO Oxidation of Persistent Metaldehyde
Tang, Liang; DeNardo, Matthew; Schuler, Christopher; Mills, Matthew; Gayathri, Chakicherla; Gil, Roberto; Kanda, Rakesh; Collins, Terrence, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 139, pp 879–887. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b11145

Unifying Evaluation of the Technical Performances of Iron-Tetra-amido Macrocyclic Ligand Oxidation Catalysts
Matthew A. DeNardo, Matthew R. Mills, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 138, pp 2933–2936 DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b13087

“Beheaded” TAML Activator: A Compromised Catalyst that Emphasizes the Linearity between Catalytic Activity and pKa
Mills, Matthew; Weitz, Andrew; Zhang, David; Hendrich, Michael; Ryabov, Alexander; Collins, Terrence A, Inorg. Chem., 2016, 55 (23), pp 12263–12269, DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.6b01988

NaClO-Generated Iron(IV)oxo and Iron(V)oxo TAMLs in Pure Water
Mills, Matthew; Weitz, Andrew; Hendrich, Michael; Ryabov, Alexander; Collins, Terrence; J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 138 (42), pp 13866–13869, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.6b09572

Use of a Battery of Chemical and Ecotoxicological Methods for the Assessment of the Efficacy of Wastewater Treatment Processes to Remove Estrogenic Potency
Nicola Beresford, Alice Baynes, Rakesh Kanda, Matthew R. Mills, Karla Arias-Salazar, Terrence J. Collins, Susan Jobling, J. Vis. Exp. (115), e54243, doi:10.3791/54243 (2016).

Minireview: Endocrine Disruptors: Past Lessons and Future Directions
Thaddeus T. Schug, Anne F. Johnson, Linda S. Birnbaum, Theo Colborn, Louis J. Guillette, Jr David, Crews, Terry Collins, Ana M. Soto,
Frederick S. vom Saal, John A. McLachlan, Carlos Sonnenschein, and Jerrold J. Heindel, Molecular Endocrinology, (2016) 30 (8): pp 833-847, DOI: 10.1210/me.2016-1096

Kinetic Evidence for Reactive Dimeric TAML Iron Species in the Catalytic Oxidation of NADH and a Dye by O2 in AOT Reverse Micelles
Liang L. Tang, Alexander D. Ryabov, and Terrence J. Collins, ACS Catal., 2016, 6, pp 3713–3718; DOI: 1021/acscatal.6b00787

TAML/H2O2 Oxidative Degradation of Metaldehyde: Pursuing Better Water Treatment for the Most Persistent Pollutants
Tang, Matthew A. DeNardo, Chakicherla Gayathri, Roberto R. Gil, Rakesh Kanda, and Terrence J. Collins, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2016, 50, pp 5261−5268; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b05518

Removal of ecotoxicity of 17α-ethinylestradiol using TAML/ peroxide water treatment
M. R. Mills, K. Arias-Salazar, Alice Baynes, L. Q. Shen, J. Churchley, N. Beresford, C. Gayathri, R. G. Gil, R. Kanda, S. Jobling, T. J. Collins, Sci. Rep., 2015, 5, pp 10511 -10511,: doi: 10.1038/srep10511

Activation of Dioxygen by a TAML Activator in Reverse Micelles: Characterization of an FeIIIFeIV Dimer and Associated Catalytic Chemistry
L. L. Tang, W. A. Gunderson, A. C. Weitz, M. P. Hendrich, A. D. Ryabov, T. J. Collins, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2015, 137 (30), pp 9704–9715.

Iron(IV) or iron(V)? Heterolytic or free-radical? Oxidation pathways of a TAML activator in acetonitrile at -40 °C
M. R. Mills, A. E. Burton, D. I. Mori, A. D. Ryabov, T. J. Collins, J. Coord. Chem., 2015.

Reactivity and operational stability of N-tailed (‘biuret’) TAMLs in water through kinetic studies of the catalyzed oxidation of Orange II by H2O2. Synthesis and X-ray structure of an N-phenyl biuret TAML
G. R. Warner, M. R. Mills, C. Enslin, S. Pattanayak, C. Panda, T. K. Panda, S. Sen Gupta, A. D. Ryabov, T. J. Collins, Chem. Eur. J., 2015, 21(16), pp 6226–6233 (cover art).

Review of the Twenty-two Year Evolution of the First University Course in Green Chemistry: teaching future leaders how to create sustainable human societies.
T. J. Collins, J. Cleaner Production, 2015, pp 1–18:


2010–present Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry Carnegie Mellon University
2001–2010 Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
1988–1992 Associate Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University
1981–1987 Assistant Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology
1978–1980 Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University

Awards and Distinctions

2018 The Environment Award, Carnegie Science Center
2013 Fellow, American Chemical Society
2010 Heinz Award for the Environment
2008 Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand
2008 Charles E. Kaufman Award of the Pittsburgh Foundation
2007 Award of the New York Metropolitan Catalysis Society
2007 Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Auckland, New Zealand
2006 Fellow of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists
2004 Pittsburgh Award of the American Chemical Society
2004 Award of the Baylor University ACS Students Affiliates for Outstanding Achievements in Green chemistry
2002 Golden Goggles Award, Middle Tennessee State University
2001 Honorary Professor, University of Auckland, 2001
1998 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award
1997 Award of the Japanese Society of Pure and Applied Coordination Chemistry
1997 Award of the Japanese Society of Pure and Applied Coordination Chemistry
1986 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
1985 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar