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Inorganic Chemistry (a section of the Department of Chemistry)

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Summary of Research Areas

Although the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory was first established as part of the University Museum in 1860, the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry was set up only in 1963. Research involves 50-60 4th year Part II chemists (1 year), 70-80 DPhil candidates (3 years), approximately 40 postdoctoral workers, many distinguished academic visitors, as well as four Royal Society Research Fellows and the 20 permanent members of academic staff. It covers a range of interests unusually wide for a department of inorganic chemistry, including especially coordination and organometallic chemistry, catalysis, solid-state and surface chemistry, electrochemistry, the study of proteins, enzymes and the role of magnetic species in biological systems, and the application of a variety of spectroscopic and diffraction techniques. Both experimental and theoretical aspects are addressed.

Research in the Laboratory is carried out in groups led by a member of academic staff. Research interests can be divided into the following areas, although considerable overlap necessarily exists:

Bioinorganic chemistry

This research focuses on the many roles of metals in biological systems. The structure and function of proteins and enzymes are probed using electrochemistry, kinetic and spectroscopic studies, involving NMR and EPR measurements, and scanning probe microscopy. The possible biomedical applications of some metal complexes are investigated.

F A Armstrong J R Dilworth L L Wong J J Davis L J Smith


A range of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalytic systems is under investigation, including homogeneous catalysts for Ziegler-Natta olefin polymerisation and Fischer-Tropsch catalysis. Heterogeneous catalysts investigated in the Wolfson Catalysis Centre include carbon-nanotube-based systems. Investigations also encompass electron transfer and active site modelling in metalloenzymes.

M L H Green P Mountford D M O’Hare F A Armstrong J R Dilworth

Co-ordination Chemistry

This encompasses a range of synthetic, spectroscopic and theoretical studies of main group, d-metal and f-block transition metal molecules and clusters. Research ranges from the synthesis of reactive molecules in low-temperature matrices to the design of ligand systems which confer particular redox properties on metal ions or which act as molecular switches on binding both metal and/or anionic guest species. Such systems may be important in unravelling catalytic mechanisms, in metal extraction, or in biology.

P D Beer A J Downs R G Denning J R Dilworth J C Green M L H Green P Mountford L L WongD M O’Hare

Organometallic Chemistry

The interests in this area include the synthesis of new catalysts for olefin polymerisation, metathesis and oxidation, the activation of small molecules such as N2, O2, CO2 and hydrocarbons such as methane, and the use of metal vapour synthesis to study the reactions of metal atoms. Investigations of the structures of organometallic molecules by photoelectron and vibrational spectroscopies are related to theoretical studies, typically using density functional theory.

P Mountford M L H Green J C Green A J Downs D M O’Hare J R Dilworth

Structural Chemistry

The investigation of molecular structures using NMR spectroscopy, vibrational spectroscopies and electron diffraction, and the investigation of the crystal structures of molecular and extended solids using single crystal and powder X-ray and neutron diffraction, electron diffraction and electron microscopy are central to the research of all members of the department. The structures of protein-based systems using scanning probe methods are important in biological systems. Development of these techniques includes the design and development of new algorithms and systems in software for structure analysis from high performance X-ray diffractometers.

P D Beer P D Battle S J Clarke J R Dilworth A J Downs M L H Green J J Davis D M O’Hare D J Watkin

Solid State Chemistry

Investigations of the synthesis, structures and properties of extended solids includes the synthesis of complex metal oxides which may display properties such as superconductivity or colossal magnetoresistance, and their electronic and magnetic characterisation. The synthesis of metal nitrides, oxynitrides, sulfides and oxyphosphides involves high temperature and chimie douce approaches such as intercalation chemistry. Spectroscopic and other studies of the electronic properties of metal oxides are related to theoretical descriptions of the behaviour of electrons confined to narrow energy bands. The possibility of using intercalates of layered double hydroxides in drug delivery is being explored. Diffraction investigations include the measurement of magnetic ordering using neutron diffraction, in situ studies of solid state reactions using synchrotron X-ray diffraction and the crystallisation of salts inside single-walled carbon nanotubes using electron microscopy.

P D Battle S J Clarke D M O’Hare R G Egdell R G Denning P A Cox M L H Green

Computer-aided molecular and material design

As computers become more powerful, it is now possible to attempt computer simulation of metal oxide structures, and to carry out increasingly sophisticated calculations of the electronic structures of organometallic molecules. These techniques can be used to guide synthetic work on solid state, organometallic and coordination chemistry.

On-line chemical resources, including publication and teaching on optical (CD-ROM) and electronic media, are also being developed.

P D Battle J C Green K N Harrison

Surface Chemistry

The investigation of surfaces is important in understanding catalytic processes and electron transfer processes at electrodes. Research in this area includes the investigation of metal oxides by LEED and STM and the manipulation of individual atoms on a surface. The examination of electrode surfaces using scanning probe techniques and molecular surface spectroscopies provides the means of investigating surface modification by chemisorbed species and the effect this has on reactions at the interfaces.

R G Egdell J J Davis

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