Our research aims to create, explore and exploit new inorganic molecules, from the study of fundamental bonding to the design of new catalysts.
Transition metal complexes with heavy Group 15 ligands
Bonds between heavy main group metals and transition metals come in many forms, and can strongly affect the properties of both metals. Because of the differences between heavy main group metals and more common, lighter donor atoms these complexes often have unusual structures and bonding types. One example is our beautiful [Pd4(SbMe3)8] cluster (J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 138, 6964) which contains the first example of unsupported µ3-pnictine bonding (above).
Organometallic main group catalysts
Currently, most industrial catalysts are based on costly transition metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold, which have low natural abundance. While simple halides of main group elements have long been used as Lewis acid catalysts, these are generally corrosive and lack any tuneability. The development of catalysts based on organometallic main group derivatives is an attractive alternative for organic bond forming reactions. Main group metals such as antimony and bismuth are abundant and inexpensive (more than 20 times cheaper than platinum, for example), and the ability to vary the organic substituents gives scope to tailor the catalyst to the desired function. We are working to develop new organometallic main group catalysts and investigate their structure-function relationships. We recently received funding from the EPSRC (EP/R020418/1) to pursue this project, so watch this space!
During her postdoctoral fellowship, Sophie worked on chemical vapour deposition (CVD) of electronic materials such as Bi2Te3, which is used in thermoelectric devices. She synthesised precursor molecules and used them to deposit metal chalcogenide materials as thin films or, by control of the substrate and conditions, into a defined pattern on the microscale.
Sophie’s PhD focused on the coordination chemistry of antimony as both a donor and an acceptor. She was also involved in studying the bonding between hard transition metal fluorides and soft chalcogen donor ligands.