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Chemistry Research Group

Led by Professor Neil Bricklebank, the Chemistry Research Group carries out research in the following areas

Synthetic inorganic chemistry

Our research encompass inorganic and materials chemistry, focusing on the synthesis and characterisation of phosphorus and sulfur compounds and their applications in nanotechnology and biological sciences.

Catalyst design through database mining and computational chemistry

Organometallic homogeneous catalysis is the workhorse of fine chemical synthesis. The shear variety and high level of tunability means these catalytic complexes have found application in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals manufacture and beyond. Even with all the interest in organometallic complexes, the holy grail of 'designer catalysts' is still some way off. Hemi-labile ligands are particularly interesting as, due to their inherent flexibility, they have the ability to control the number of coordination sites around the metal centre. Understanding and manipulating this flexibility can lead to new reaction pathways and novel products.

Novel organic compounds

Research has allowed the development of a large variety of organic compounds, with the potential therapeutic activity in a number of chronic inflammatory diseases. In addition, a number of compounds with anti-microbial activity are also under development. The synthetic programme is focussed on a number of categories of compounds.

The study of reaction mechanisms

This involves the physical organic study of fundamental small molecules including proton transfers and oxidations. Larger molecules can equate to more complex reaction mechanisms, so our work involves the synthesis and study of simple systems that try to isolate individual components of such mechanisms. This has included control of reaction pathways with protonation/deprotonation and directing reaction outcomes and catalysis with hydrogen bonding. These projects involve the timely syntheses of model substrates and catalysts twined with the study of their kinetic, thermodynamic and structural properties.

The development of procedurally simple and robust synthetic and catalytic methodologies for the preparation of key bonds in organic chemistry

The formation of strategically important bonds allows rapid and efficient preparation of a wide variety of useful molecules including pharmaceuticals, functionalised materials, agrochemicals and natural products.

Increased efficiency in chemical synthesis shortens synthetic sequences, lowers costs, reduces waste and passes on these benefits to the end-user.

However, many procedures for the formation of challenging bonds are not practically useful for a variety of reasons. They may require specialised equipment; preparation and use of complex, unstable, expensive or toxic starting materials or catalysts; require rigorous exclusion of air, require a large stoichiometric excess of one or more reagents; have poor substrate scope; be irreproducible or perform poorly on scale.

By recognising and avoiding these issues in the development process, we can design more powerful chemical transformations and improve uptake of new synthetic procedures.

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