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Chemistry & Chemical Engineering

Belfast United Kingdom Inorganic Chemistry Physical Chemistry

About the Project

A 3-year, fully funded PhD position is available starting October 2021 in the QUILL Research Centre, under the supervision of Dr Gosia Swadźba-Kwaśny and Professor John Holbrey. The project is suitable for an independent thinking, enthusiastic student, interested in working at intersection of two topical areas: Ionic Liquids and Main Group Catalysis.

Frustrated Lewis pairs (FLPs) are combinations of Lewis acids and Lewis bases, prevented from the adduct formation by steric hindrance. Solutions of FLPs in non-coordinating organic solvents have been shown to contain low concentration of FLP encounter complexes, held together by weak interactions. In these encounter complexes, the proximity of Lewis acidic and basic sites leads to unusual reactivity: FLPs can activate hydrogen, in a manner similar to transition metal catalysis, but in the absence of transition metal. Other small molecules may also be activated, notably, recently reported was nitrogen activation.

Recently we discovered that the dissolution of FLPs in ionic liquids leads to enhanced encounter complex formation (Chem. Commun., 2018, 54, 8689) and to more elegant hydrogenation systems due to the absence of volatile organic solvent components. In this project, the student will study activation of small molecules, in particular activation of ammonia boranes to support a hydrogen economy, by FLP complexes generated in ionic liquids, and – more ambitiously – by designing and synthesising new ionic liquids materials that function as intrinsic FLPs.

For further information relating to this project, please contact  or  via email.

Funding Notes

As a result of constraints set out by the funding body, and unless otherwise stated, the studentships detailed below are open to EU/UK citizens that satisfy a requirement of being ordinarily resident in the UK for the three years prior to the start of the studentship. Full eligibility information can be viewed via the Department for the Economy website.

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