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Fe Nanoparticles as Catalysts in Organic Synthesis: Replacing Palladium

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  • Full or part time
    Dr B Nguyen
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This proposal is representative of the projects currently on offer in our group. For more details of active research projects, please visit the link:

Palladium catalysts are well established in modern synthetic chemistry due to their versatile role in catalysing hydrogenation, hydrogenolysis and coupling reactions.[1] Palladium supply, however, is dwindling and its high toxicity often hinders application of palladium catalysts in pharmaceutical syntheses. Recent developments in Fe-catalysis showed that Fe nanoparticles are high sustainable alternatives to palladium catalysts in reduction of nitro compounds[2] and ketones[3] and in certain types of coupling reactions.[4] However, the catalytic activity of Fe nanoparticles is still relatively low and factors controlling their formation and activity are not well understood, mainly due to a lack of structure-reactivity studies into these novel catalysts

The student undertaking this project will address this important gap in chemical knowledge using state-of-the-art tools in material and catalytic science: electron microscopy, synchrotron-based spectroscopy, rapid kinetic studies and analysis, isotopic labelling and NMR, etc. The specific objectives are:

• Understanding structure-reactivity relationship in Fe nanoparticles for hydrogenation/transfer hydrogenation/coupling reactions.
• Selective generation of highly active yet easily handled Fe nanoparticles and evaluation of their performance in catalysis.
• Application of novel technologies for direct heating of the Fe nanoparticles instead of the bulk solution and reactants to achieve higher catalytic activity while avoiding side reactions and decomposition of product at high temperature.

Project work will involve organic synthesis of relevant starting materials; synthesis of Fe nanoparticles and Pd catalysts; investigations of the structure-reactivity relationship of Fe nanoparticles including stabiliser-nanoparticle interactions, and evaluation of their catalytic activity through kinetic profiling. Transferable characterisation techniques will include, but not limited to, mass spectrometry, solution phase IR, NMR, and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (at leading EU and UK synchrotrons). Training will be provided for all these techniques and general process chemistry, i.e. development of efficient and sustainable chemical processes in industrial context.

More detail on other projects in asymmetric catalysis, recovery of precious metals from catalytic waste streams, or CO2 utilisation will be made available by contacting Dr Bao N. Nguyen at [email protected]

Funding Notes

We are looking for an excellent candidate who can compete for departmental studentship or any other scholarship scheme. Assistance will be provided for the whole process.


[1] V. Snieckus et. al. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 5062-5085 and references therein.
[2] M. Beller et. al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 12875.
[3] R. H. Morris et. al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 5893.
[4] A. J. von Wangelin et. al. ChemSusChem 2009, 2, 396 and references therein.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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