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Synthetic electrochemical strategies for unsaturated hydrocarbon valorisation


   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr Giacomo Crisenza  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Synthetic methods for the valorisation of raw materials and by-products are attractive to both industry and society since they convert chemical waste into reusable products, thus making a better use of disposal costs and pollutants. A large portion of petroleum-derived feedstocks, as well as both anthropogenic and bio-generated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) consists of unsaturated hydrocarbons (aromatics, alkenes and alkynes). Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of protocols for the selective and efficient functionalisation of these compounds. This research programme aims to develop sustainable electrochemical processes that convert unsaturated hydrocarbon feedstock into value-added products, which can either serve as synthetic building-blocks, streamline the synthesis of molecules of societal importance (medicines, materials and agrochemicals) or expand the current chemical space towards previously inaccessible molecular architectures. 

To this end, the appointed candidate will design novel reagents capable of engaging with ubiquitous and readily-available unsaturated hydrocarbon substrates and activate them towards radical reactivity, by means of electrochemical methods. Using this strategy, the candidate will develop electrocatalytic reactions for the functionalization of alkenes, alkynes and allenes – which negate the need for hazardous organometallic reagents and precious metal catalysts – as well as novel alkene oxidative cleavage reactions – providing a complementary and sustainable alternative to current methods based on the use of ozone and toxic osmium-complexes. The combination of this electrochemical strategy with other catalytic modes (photocatalysis and Earth abundant metal-catalysis) will be explored, as well as its applications to the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and the functionalisation of materials.

The successful candidate will be trained and acquire skills in synthetic organic chemistry (synthesis, purification and characterisation of organic compounds and reaction intermediates), electrochemistry, and other areas of catalysis (photocatalysis and transition metal catalysis). Analytical techniques – both experimental (NMR, CV, EPR, UV-vis, among others) and computational – will be used to investigate the mechanism of the developed reactions. 

Moreover, the student will be encouraged to actively participate to group meetings, problem sessions, and attend international conferences: this providing them with the opportunity to present their project results, and engaging with other scientists from academia and industry.

For informal enquiries and further details about the project, please contact Dr Giacomo Crisenza ([Email Address Removed]) with a CV and a cover letter (the latter is optional). More details regarding the application process can be found at: https://www.chemistry.manchester.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-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.

 We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

 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: https://www.chemistry.manchester.ac.uk/connect/social-responsibility/


Funding Notes

Funded PhD studentship by the University of Manchester at standard UKRI fees and stipend. Applications from UK, EU and overseas students will be considered. Full funding may be available for outstanding international applicants.

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