The metal (ion)-free catalysis of organic reactions is a contemporary challenge that is just being taken up by chemists. Hence, this field is in its infancy and is briefly reviewed here, along with some rough guidelines and concepts for further catalyst development. Catalysis through explicit hydrogen bonding interactions offers attractive alternatives to metal (ion)-catalyzed reactions by combining supramolecular recognition with chemical transformations in an environmentally benign fashion. Although the catalytic rate accelerations relative to uncatalyzed reactions are often considerably less than for the metal (ion)-catalyzed variants, this need not be a disadvantage. Also, owing to weaker enthalpic binding interactions, product inhibition is rarely a problem and hydrogen bond additives are truly catalytic, even in water.
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