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.

Project 1

Green chemistry through nanoencapsulation
This project examines the development of Green Chemical processes utilizing catalytic cascades based on the separate confinement of two 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.

TECHNIQUES THAT WILL BE LEARNT: confocal microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, gas chromotogaphy, liquid chromatography, organic synthesis, material synthesis.






Project 2

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, for example, 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.

TECHNIQUES THAT WILL BE LEARNT: materials synthesis, nanoparticle synthesis, X-ray diffraction and small angle X-ray diffraction, TEM, N2 sorption, gas chromatography.



Project 3

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 bio-inspired catalysts, able to interconvert H2 and protons.

TECHNIQUES THAT WILL BE LEARNT: organometallic synthesis, electrochemistry, gas chromatography.




Project 4

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.

TECHNIQUES THAT WILL BE LEARNT: nanoparticle synthesis, quantum dot synthesis, dynamic light scattering, fluorescence imaging, organic synthesis, TEM, cell culture.




Project 5

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.
 TECHNIQUES THAT WILL BE LEARNT: organic synthesis, materials synthesis, electrochemistry, Raman spectroscopy, TEM, N2 sorption.




This research group undertakes multidisciplinary research. In addition to the standard (NMR, IR, UV-Vis, mass spectrometry) we routinely use such techniques as:

  • Scanning & Tunneling electron microscopies (SEM and TEM);
  • Gas & High-Pressure Liquid chromatographies (GC and HPLC) with optional MS;
  • X-ray diffraction (XRD) and small angle x-ray diffraction (SAXS);
  • Nitrogen sorption for analysis of porous materials;
  • Electrochemistry;
  • Dynamic light scattering (DLS);
  • Raman Spectroscopy
  • Inductively coupled plasma (ICP).

The research group also has strong collaborative ties with the University of Cambridge, the Institutes of Chemical Technology in Delft (The Netherlands) and Valencia (Spain), Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI, Università Ca' Foscari in Venice, Italy (through Cotutelle student exchanges), CSIRO, Australian National University, Monash University, James Cook University, The School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (USyd), BHP-Billiton, Ignite Energy Resources, Licella, MBD, Alpha Chemicals and RedFlow.

For further information, please contact:

Associate Professor Tony Masters

Room 459

School of Chemistry

Eastern Avenue

University of Sydney NSW 2006

Phone: +61 2 9351 3743