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New Landscapes in Alkaline Earth and Lanthanide Chemistry

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, February 27, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Background

The Fischer-Tropsch process is a cornerstone of the chemical industry and is used for multi-ton production of synthetic fuels and lubricants. The process converts synthesis-gas (i.e. a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) into more complex molecules with the aid of transition metal catalysts (Fe, Co, Ni and Ru). However, the process suffers from harsh reaction conditions, low carbon-efficiency and formation of undesired by-products. Owing to its strategic industrial importance, there is a great drive to employ more sustainable catalysts and improve the efficiency of the catalytic cycle. To tackle these issues, more active and earth-abundant catalysts should be investigated, such as systems based on Alkaline earth (Ae) and Lanthanide (Ln) metals.

The project

Our research group studies the fundamental chemistry of main group and f-block elements and their application in sustainable synthesis. Most of Ae and Ln metals are non-toxic, earth-abundant and comparable in price (Mg $2/kg, Ca $2/kg, Ba $20-50/kg, Eu $28/kg, Sm $13/kg, Yb $50/kg) to some of the cheapest metals used in catalysis (Fe $0.1/kg, Co $31/kg, Ni $11/kg), which makes them attractive targets for future industrial exploitations. In the light of this, we are interested in the discovery of new structural motifs and unusual reactivity of these metals, which could be applied for the activation of strategic small molecules (e.g. CO, CO2, H2) used as building blocks in catalysis.

This PhD project will target the development of unprecedented low-oxidation state chemistry for the Ae elements (Mg, Ca, Sr and Ba) and selected Ln metals (Eu, Sm and Yb). Such species will be used as powerful reagents for the activation of molecules contained in synthesis-gas; the ambitious goal will be to deliver facile transformations without the need of harsh reaction conditions normally required with transition metal catalysts. Together with the discovery of new fundamental properties of Ae and Ln metals, this new family of reagents will provide an innovative approach towards more sustainable methodologies for chemical synthesis.

All the compounds will be synthesised following advanced anaerobic synthetic protocols used in organometallic and inorganic chemistry, including Schlenk line and glovebox techniques. As part of the project, the student will develop extensive knowledge of ligand design and its application in coordination chemistry. The synthetic work will be complemented by hands-on experience of a wide range of analytical and spectroscopic techniques, including single crystal X-ray crystallography, multinuclear NMR spectroscopy, UV/vis/NIR and EPR.

Entry requirements

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.
English language requirements may apply https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/entry-reqs/eng-lang-reqs/ielts-60

Enquiries

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.
English language requirements may apply https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/entry-reqs/eng-lang-reqs/ielts-60

How to apply

To apply refer to https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/epsrc-studentships

Eligibility: UK/EU (Residency Requirements for EU in accordance with UKRI)
https://epsrc.ukri.org/skills/students/guidance-on-epsrc-studentships/eligibility/

Funding Notes

3.5 Year funding:
Fees
RCUK Rate Stipend
RTSG
*Competitive Funding*

References

1) S.P. Green et al. Science, 2007, 318, 1754
2) S. Krieck et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2009, 131, 2977.
3) K. Yuvarai et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2019, 141, 8764.
4) P.B. Hitchcock et al. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2008, 47, 1488.
5) W.J. Evans Organometallics, 2016, 35, 3088.

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