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Discovering and Understanding Selective Oxidation Catalysts

Discovering and Understanding Selective Oxidation Catalysts

PhD project title and outline, including interdisciplinary dimension:
Discovering and Understanding Selective Oxidation Catalysts

Oxidation reactions are key steps in the production of many important chemicals including healthcare products, polymers, fragrance and flavour molecules as well as pharmaceuticals and agrichemicals. Nonetheless, oxidation reactions still pose a significant challenge on industrial scale as current methods are relatively inefficient, and rely on methods which create a great deal of waste. Particularly for the pharmaceutical industry, there is a need to develop new catalytic methods and processes which use sustainable oxidants such as molecular oxygen or hydrogen peroxide. This project aims to address this area, and will focus on the use of homogeneous catalysts (molecular / organometallic complexes). The project aims to deliver on the following three technical aspects:

1. New insights into the mechanism and limitations of current state-of-the-art oxidation catalysts.
2. Development of well-defined aerobic oxidation catalysts with superior performance.
3. Translating molecular oxidation catalysis into industrially applicable methods via safe and efficient flow systems.

The project will involve collaborations with an international academic laboratory (Prof Eric Anslyn (University of Texas Austin)) and an industrial partner (Prof Tom Moody at Almac). The researcher will therefore experience a genuine blend of activity across academic and industrial sectors.  The project will require an interdisciplinary approach to deliver on the targets set out above. The researcher will have to exploit different areas of chemistry (inorganic and physical-organic), however to develop methods suitable for industry (e.g. flow systems) they will have to develop knowledge of chemical engineering. The researcher will therefore develop a wide skill set and have knowledge that will make them extremely employable.

Primary supervisor: Dr Mark Muldoon (Chemistry and Chemical Engineering)
Secondary supervisor: Professor Eric Anslyn (The University of Texas Austin and visiting Professor at School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering QUB)
External Partner/Organisation: Almac