Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Tagged: NMR

Small Molecule NMR – a SMASHing time

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

The following blog comes from Andrew Hall, who between the 20th-24th September, attended the Small Molecule NMR Conference within the beautiful setting of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy.

SMASH NMR is not something you do when your Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer is playing up and you’ve had enough, but is in fact the international NMR conference dedicated to the study of small molecules. This year one of the underlying themes was the use of NMR for reaction monitoring to enable the study of how chemicals change during the course of a reaction.

As my first international conference, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, particularly since this is a field that I am relatively new to. I quickly realised that the field of NMR spectroscopy extends far beyond the conventional image of the synthetic chemist scraping their meagre offering of prized compound into a glass tube and carefully dissolving in deuterated solvent that I was used to from previous encounters with NMR.

Talks at the conference ranged from highly sophisticated, multi-dimensional studies of complex mixtures of chemicals, performed using very large magnetic fields, all the way down to cutting edge, lab-on-a-chip NMR technologies. I found these new developments in miniaturisation particularly interesting, with the potential to shrink machines the size of a room down to an instrument that can fit onto a lab bench, or even be inserted into chemical reactors or oil wells to carry out in situ analysis.

Andy + poster

Andy in situ with his poster.

With reaction monitoring as one of the key themes in the conference, as well as a focus of my own research, it was very interesting to see how different groups had approached the problem of studying samples which are continually changing. In particular I found it very interesting to hear about how different methods could be combined to give information that is not possible using any one technique alone.

Aside from the structured talks and workshops, I found that I learnt a lot simply by talking to other attendees at the conference, both at the poster sessions and informally during breaks. In particular I found it very interesting to talk to some of the other students present at the conference, and to discuss how the field is developing with the shrinking size of instruments and the introduction of new methods for reaction monitoring.

Overall I enjoyed the conference greatly and feel I learnt a lot - it has given me lots of ideas for new techniques to try in my research. I was also able to make lots of useful contacts and had many interesting discussions with other attendees - in many ways these conversations were at least as important to in furthering my understanding of the subject as the talks themselves.

And the venue? The banks of the beautiful Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy; because NMR spectroscopy is all about the relaxation!


The beautiful Lake Maggiore.

Andrew is working towards his PhD on "Biogenic Alcohols and Sugars as Sustainable Reductants: A Combined Spectroscopic and Theoretical Approach to the Development of New Homogeneous Catalysts for Dehydrogenation, Hydrogen Transfer and Reverse Water-Gas-Shift Chemistry" with Dr Ulrich Hintermair, Dr Antoine Buchard and Dr John Lowe.


UK-China workshop on the chemistry and physics of functional materials

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

On Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 January 2013, our student Ibbi Ahmet attended a Theo Murphy international scientific meeting held by The Royal Society, which "intended to be pivotal events of lasting significance."

This report comes from second-year DTC student Ibbi Ahmet.

TheoMurphy-1The UK-China workshop was excellent and showcased cutting edge knowledge, which brought together researchers from both China and the UK to present new and interesting concepts on a range of functional materials, addressing both the organic and inorganic fields.

The conference was held at the beautiful location of Chicheley Hall close to Milton Keynes. There were a range of speakers and audience members that had eminent status in their field of research and impressive career successes.

I especially enjoyed the talk by Professor Clare Grey from the University of Cambridge, who presented some excellent concepts that used in-situ solid state NMR to characterise local structural changes in lithium ion batteries, specifically investigating the process of intercalating ions in silicon anodes and lithium air cathodes. The time-lapsed examination of in-situ rather than ex-situ charging of materials in the solid state presented interesting evidence of a multi-step intercalation processes, which can help develop and improve novel battery design as well as our understanding of cathode and anode materials.

TheoMurphy-2Professor Sir Richard Friend, from the University of Cambridge, presented an interesting mode towards high efficiency solar cells. He showed that using materials that had a triplet exciton energy less than one half of the singlet exciton energy will favour the fission of a singlet exciton to a pair of triple excitons (a “two for one offer!!”). This can result in an enhanced solar conversion efficiency beyond the theoretical single junction Shockley-Quessier limit (33.7% to c.a. 48%). He also demonstrated how this phenomenon occurs in a pentacene/leadselenide hybrid low band gap solar cell device.

Professor Richard Catlow, from UCL, showed how computational techniques can be used to understand defect and electron processes in doped semiconducting materials. One fascinating topic of discussion was around p-type ZnO semiconducting materials: It was shown, by calculating the energetics of producing an oxygen vacancy or electron hole within a ZnO lattice, that an oxygen vacancy will be more favourable. This provides evidence for why it is difficult to produce good ZnO p-type semiconductors. He went on to explain why research will need to look towards producing ZnO materials that stabilise the electron hole process and destabilise the process of forming oxygen vacancies.

TheoMurphy-3Another talk, presented by Professor Yunqi Liu, was titled ‘Controllable synthesis of graphene by chemical vapour deposition method and studies on its electronic properties’. There were many techniques shown to be valuable for my research, such as growing high quality graphene onto a range of substrates including ruthenium crystals. It was then shown that graphene can undergo an interesting annealing process resulting in the intercalation of different materials between graphene sheets.

Overall I felt that the conference was very educational and presented interesting experiments and research concepts that can be used to investigate a number of important functional materials in which the properties are not yet well known.