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Synthesis, Structure and Reactivity of d-and f-Block Metal-Aluminium Heterobimetallic Complexes

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr D Willcox, Prof David Mills  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Monometallic single-site platinum group metal catalysts predominate the homogeneous catalysis landscape. Recently, polarized heterobimetallic complexes are challenging this classical paradigm as they are capable of delocalizing bond activation/formation over two metal sites, where only one metal is redox active. However, facile synthetic routes to effective mixed p-/d-block catalysts have not yet been realised. Here we aim to address this synthetic challenge for complexes containing unsupported transition metal (TM), lanthanide (Ln) and actinide (An)-aluminium bonds, and by determining their electronic structures using state-of-the-art characterisation methods we will develop structure-guided reactivity profiles in order to exploit this class of complex in small molecule activation chemistry.

 The successful candidate, based in the laboratory of Dr Darren Willcox and co-supervised by Prof. David Mills, will synthesise and fully characterise a novel series of highly air- and moisture- sensitive heterobimetallic aluminium complexes. We will analyse the electronic structure of these complexes using a combination of experimental techniques (continuous wave pulsed EPR spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, NMR, single crystal XRD, UV-Vis/NIR, ATR-IR, Raman, and electrochemistry) and ab initio calculations.

Academic background of candidates 

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second-class undergraduate degree (or the overseas equivalent) in Chemistry. A Master’s degree in a relevant subject and experience in synthetic inorganic chemistry or organometallic chemistry is desirable. Candidates with an interest in inorganic/organometallic air-free synthesis with mixed d-/f- block and p-block heterobimetallic chemistry/or experience in air/moisture-free chemistry are encouraged to apply.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

The School is committed to Athena SWAN principles to promote women in science; the School’s website documenting activity in this area can be found at:

The University will actively foster a culture of inclusion and diversity and will seek to achieve true equality of opportunity for all members of its community.

Informal enquires about the position and the chemistry are welcome and please contact Dr Darren Willcox ([Email Address Removed])

Please submit a cover letter and CV with your application. The cover letter should describe your research interests and motivation for the proposed project in a short paragraph. Please see the application process at:

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year EPSRC DTG studentship. Funding will cover UK tuition fee and stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarships that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
Start date: September 2022

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