organometallic and catalytic chemistry
For us to even approach a "sustainable" existence, such that the ecosphere exists in a "steady state" able to support our current lifestyle, a 4 to 10 fold increase in the resource efficiency of existing production processes is necessary. Our group offers the following projects around this theme.
Green chemistry through nanoencapsulation
This project examines the development of Green Chemical processes utilizing catalytic cascades based on the separate confinement of 2 or more otherwise mutually incompatible catalysts within nanocapsules so they can operate in tandem in the same reactor. It will involve the synthesis and characterization of novel supports (including periodic mesoporous organosilicas) and of catalysts, and catalytic testing.
Greener hydrocarbon oxidation
In the short term, small absolute improvements to large scale existing processes can have maximum impact. A fundamental industrial petroleum-based operation is the catalytic selective oxidation of hydrocarbons to produce e.g., epoxides, ketones, aldehydes, alcohols, acids, and their derivatives. We aim to develop novel hydrocarbon oxidation catalysts, capable of delivering significant gains in resource efficiency. The project concentrates on two heterogeneous catalytic approaches – one designed for incorporation into existing facilities, and the second, longer term, utilizing photochemical hydrocarbon oxidation, a topic gaining increasing attention, as the need for alternative energy sources becomes more obvious. Enough sunlight falls on the earth in one hour to power the planet for a year.
A functional model of the NiFe hydrogenase
Hydrogen is perhaps one of the earth's oldest energy sources, providing the energy for some of the first microorganisms associated with the evolution of life. Today, the catalytic hydrogenations of fossil feedstocks, of nitrogen, and of commodity and fine chemicals (including asymmetric hydrogenations) are the highest volume industrial processes. In future, in addition to these chemical applications, hydrogen is again expected to provide energy for humankind on a large scale. Presently, the H2/H+ interconversions and industrial hydrogenations are commonly catalysed by expensive metals, possibly unsuitable for large-scale (particularly distributed) use in the provision of energy. By contrast, the hydrogenase enzymes operate more efficiently using iron and nickel at their active sites. This project is targeted at the syntheses of functional models of bioinspired catalysts, able to interconvert H2 and protons.
Nanotherapeutics (with Professor Christopherson)
Here we combine several features in one particle: fluorescent imaging, MRI contrast enhancement, disease targeting via antibodies and selective drug delivery and release by photolytic cleavage. This programme endeavours to assemble iron-based nanoparticles coated with various fuctionalities to generate disease-specific activity. In this project both inorganic and organic syntheses are demanded and cell cultures and antibody techniques will be used as well as various imaging and spectroscopic techniques.
A step change in energy storage with tailored mesoporous materials (with Professor Vassallo)
Renewable sources of energy are of particular interest in the era of diminishing fossil fuels. Efficient energy storage is a missing link for renewable energy. We aim to redesign existing battery systems by introducing a combination of mesoporous materials and ionic liquids to improve power density by 300-400%. The work involves organic and inorganic synthesis, and characterization.
For further information, please contact:
School of Chemistry
University of Sydney NSW 2006
Phone: +61 2 9351 3743