Electrochemical synthesis, catalyst screening and optimisation of base-metal catalysts using a flow reactor platform


Contact Dr Charlotte E. Willans to discuss this project further informally.

This proposal is representative of the projects currently on offer in our group. For more details of active research projects and collaborations, please visit our webpage at: https://willans.leeds.ac.uk

Project description

Ligand design is essential in the development of coordination and organometallic complexes, allowing their overall properties to be tuned and controlled in a precise manner, enabling new activities and reactivities to emerge. N-Heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) have been studied widely as ancillary ligands for the preparation of metal-based catalysts, and have shown significant promise. The steric and electronic versatility of NHCs is huge, through alteration of the nitrogen substituents and carbon backbone substituents. We have shown that electrochemical methodology can be used for the synthesis of metal-NHCs and other metal complexes.

Our route surpasses traditional synthetic routes as it negates the need for strong bases, strict inert conditions, the by-product formation of stoichiometric metal salts, and is compatible with a wide range of ligand functionalities. We have translated the methodology into flow technology, enabling efficient and facile ‘on-tap’ generation of a range of organometallic, inorganic and coordination compounds.

This project will involve electrochemical generation of base-metal catalysts with direct flow into a catalytic flow reactor. Inline analysis at both the complex synthesis and catalytic reaction stages will enable optimisation of the full process using feedback control systems. Students working on this project will gain skills in synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry, catalysis, flow-chemistry and reaction engineering. In addition, a variety of analytical tools will be used including NMR and UV spectroscopy, (in-situ) mass spectrometry, GC and X-ray crystallography.

The industrial standard lab that is housed in the School of Chemistry at Leeds (iPRD) and the interdisciplinary research project will provide a unique and relevant training environment.

Further information about this project (pdf).

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master's degree in a relevant subject.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is the 'Electrochemical synthesis, catalyst screening and optimisation of base-metal catalysts using a flow reactor platform’ as well as Dr Charlotte E. Willans as your proposed supervisor.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk