Our research interests focus on understanding the structure, synthesis and reactivity of mixed-metal organometallic compounds and nanocatalysts.
Organometallics for synthesis
We are interested in the activities of molecular organometallic reagents and have used homo- and heterometallic reagents including Li-Al and Li-Zn systems to fabricate hydridic clusters and to function as chemoselective bases. We work on this with teams in Japan and Manchester. Recent major advances include:
1) the combination of CuCN with organolithium reagents to give bimetallic bases such as (TMP)2Cu(CN)Li2.THF (below left) that have applications in C–C bond formation and,
2) the first demonstration that directed benzylic lithiation can be used to generate tertiary carbanions (below right).
The ability to access stable and compositionally and dimensionally controllable metallic nanoparticles promises applications in catalysis. We prepare metal nanoparticles (e.g. Au, Cu, Pd, CuM, PdM, M = Sn, Zn…) and use them to achieve controllably functional surfaces by deposition or encapsulation in mesostructured thin films (illustrated below). In collaboration with the Technical University of Eindhoven and Queen's University, NI, applications of the resulting microreactors have been developed in the areas of selective hydrogenation, nanotube growth, and fine chemicals synthesis.
We are also interested in fundamental aspects of nanoparticle synthesis and structure. Recently, we have successfully fabricated oxidatively stable Cu-based nanocatalysts as evidenced by XRD and XPS (below). By introducing Zn we have also achieved CuZn nanoparticles with differing intermetallic ratios and predicted upper d-band energies for Cu.