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Solution-Phase Electronic Structure of Organozinc Reagents – Understanding Catalytic Cross Coupling

Project Description

"Chemical synthesis and the formation of carbon-carbon (C−C) bonds is vital for the manufacture of many essential materials such as medicines, agrochemicals and polymers. The Negishi cross-coupling reaction is important method to make these molecules; classically, joining an aryl halide and an organozinc reagent. Solvents, additives and substituents are known to have a significant effect on reactivity and the student will investigate the causes of these effects from first principles in order to improve the effectiveness of this important catalytic reaction.
The student will make and investigate these metal complexes in the liquid phase using X–ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS, at the University of Reading and at the National XPS facility, Harwell) and synchrotron techniques (resonant Auger electron spectroscopy (RAES), X–ray emission spectroscopy, (XES), X–ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), e.g. I20 at Diamond Light Source, Harwell). Volatile samples (i.e. metal complexes dissolved in molecular liquids) will be studied using liquid jet synchrotron techniques (e.g. at SOL3PES at BESSY, Berlin, Germany).
The student should have an interest in both synthesis and spectroscopy. They will be trained in synthetic techniques, including glovebox techniques, and will use associated analytical techniques, such as NMR, HRMS, XPS etc. They will also use national and international facilities for advanced techniques such as XES, XAS and RAES and will be required to analyse and interpret the associated spectroscopy. Results will be communicated through regular group meetings, internal and external presentations, written reports and publications.
The Student will be co-supervised by Dr Kevin Lovelock ( and Dr Christopher Smith (

Key words: Synthesis, Catalysis, Synchrotron, X-ray Spectroscopy. "

Funding Notes

Funding starts October 2020 4-year award. Tutition fees plus stipend.

Applicants must hold a first or upper second class (2:1) BSc, Degree in Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Materials or an equivalent.

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