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Dr Duncan Wass

Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis

Our research interests are in the area of homogeneous catalysis using organometallic and coordination compounds. Catalysis is the key tool used both industrially and in academic laboratories to make useful molecules and a broad range of new and existing chemical products are our targets, from high molecular weight polymers to small molecules. The drivers for this work are achieving better catalytic activity and selectivity, using cheaper and greener feedstocks, and producing end-materials with better performance. Understanding the fundamental reaction pathways by which catalysis occurs is also central to achieving these objectives.

An exciting recent development is our discovery of a family of ethylene trimerisation catalysts based on chromium diphosphine complexes. These produce 1-hexene, an important comonomer for polyethylene manufacture. The performance of these catalysts is remarkable, being some 100 times more catalytically active (and 10 times more selective) than existing commercial systems!

Reaction scheme

The organometallic chemistry of this catalyst is also fascinating; for example, we have demonstrated that the pendant MeO groups play a crucial role in achieving high activity.

A project in this group would involve the synthesis of new ligands and coordination/organometallic compounds. Application of new (and existing) compounds to catalysis, from initial screening to in-depth study of catalytic performance and mechanisms, would also be involved. Interaction and collaboration with industry is likely for many projects.

Selected Recent Publications

  1. Trimerisation catalysts: Chem Comm, 2002, 858.
  2. Atom Transfer Radical Polymerisation (ATRP). Chemical Communications, 2002, (17), 1850-1851.
  3. Nickel Polymerisation: Organometallics, 2001, 20, 4769-4771.
  4. Polymerisation catalysts (review): Angew. Chem., Int. Ed, 1999, 38, 428.