Materials and Inorganic Chemistry

Section Head: Prof Claire Carmalt

Inorganic Research Image

This section is concerned with the synthesis, characterisation and functional properties of inorganic complexes and materials. It has a particular emphasis on solid state-chemistry, synchrotron studies and understanding material properties through computational work. It is very skilled in high pressure and thin film work. It also has interests in crystallography (powders and single crystals), polymorphism, preparation of catalysts, hydrogen storage medium, combinatorial materials science, metal enzyme mimics, bone structure, supercritical fluids, molecular precursosrs and chemical vapour deposition.

Below is a brief overview of some of the discoveries and inventions that have taken place in UCL's Materials and Inorganic Chemistry department in recent months as well as the on going research.

Rob Bell - Nanoporous framework materials

Robert Bell Research Image

Our interest lies in the design of nanoporous framework materials for a variety of applications, including catalysis and gas separation. Using computational methods, we can compute the structures and properties of numerous hypothetical materials with desirable properties, and estimate how feasible they would be to synthesize. We explore fundamental links between chemistry and topology. A number of our predicted structures have subsequently been made. The materials include both zeolite types and metal-organic frameworks which are of interest for carbon dioxide and hydrogen storage. 

Chris Blackman - Vapour synthesis of functional materials

Chris Blackman - Vapour synthesis of functional materials

Research Overview

My group works on the development and application of materials to tackle problems in the fields of environmental monitoring, catalysis and energy. The materials approach we use is to leverage vapour deposition techniques (chemical vapoour deposition, atomic layer deposition) to provide direct integration of (functionalised) nanomaterials with devices and to allow new device fabrication strategies. This work is cross-disciplinary and application led, involving close collaboration with both academic and industrial partners and with stakeholders to deliver and evaluate the research.

Environmental Monitoring

C.Blackman, Adv. Funct. Mater., 2013, 23, 1313-1322; DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201201871

Recent research has focussed on the use of aerosol-assisted chemical vapour deposition for synthesis of metal nanoparticle functionalised metal oxide nanostructures for use in sensitive and selective chemoresistive sensors. The use of this technique has advantages over other methods of integrating nanomaterials and devices of having fewer processing steps, relatively low processing temperature,and no requirement for substrate pre-treatment.

In addition this provides advantages in utilising nanomaterials on low power microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) substrates, where fabrication can be difficult using conventional techniques.

Further, by simple modification of the process a family of nanosensors can be produced allowing quantative detection of mixtures of gases via a sensor array.

This work has been featured in an Emerging Investigators issue of Chemical Communications and as a cover article in Advanced Functional Materials.


Chris Blackman Research Image

We are interested in applying a range of vapour deposited functionalised nanomaterials in a range of catalytic applications, tested in collaboration with partners in Chemical Engineering and at Imperial College.

Our principal interests are in extending the range of metal nanoparticles we can synthesise, investigating parameters that control the size and dispersity of these particles and also the range of support materials we can utilise.

Results are currently at an early stage but demonstrate extremely promising selectvity in test reactions and application in microcatalysis is being investigated.



Our group is working on a range of materials and applications, from photoelectrochemical and photocatalytic water splitting, CO2 utlisation via photocatalysis and battery electrodes.

In all of these applications we are interested in the application of new nanomaterials and/or new device fabrication strategies, for instance opportunities afforded by atomic layer deposition of ultra-thin conformal coatings in water splitting and in metal nanoparticle plasmonic enhancement of visible light semiconductor photocatalysis.

Recent research on the use of CVD for the deposition of composite thin films composed of bismuth oxide and platinum nanoparticles has been featured in a“Young Investigators Award” issue of Inorganica Chimica Acta.

Claire Carmalt - Molecular precursor routes to inorganic thin films

Claire Calmalt Research Image

We are interested in developing innovative new routes to inorganic materials via chemical vapour deposition (CVD). The research involves the synthesis of molecular precursors to a range of materials including transition metal nitrides, selenides and Group III nitrides and oxides. The aim is to develop new highly volatile, non-toxic CVD precursors, which are then used to grown thin-films via low-pressure, and aerosol-assisted CVD.

Richard Catlow - Catalysis, nanochemistry and crystal growth

Richard Catlow - Catalysis, nanochemistry and crystal growth

Richard Catlow Research Image

A powerful combination of computational and experimental techniques is used to explore a wide range of problems in current materials chemistry. Strong emphasis is given currently to (1) prediction of reaction mechanisms in heterogeneous catalysis, (2) prediction of crystal and nano-particle structures, and (3) elucidation of mechanisms of crystal growth and nucleation. We exploit the latest high performance computing technologies, which we combine with experimental studies using synchrotron radiation techniques.

Furio Cora - Electronic structure study of crystalline solids

Furio Cora Research Image

Our work examines computationally the properties of crystalline solids; the main areas of research cover the functional behaviour of transition metal bearing compounds, and the synthesis and catalytic activity of doped nanoporous solids. We are also interested in applying computational methods to related areas, when unusual behaviour is observed experimentally that would benefit from the atomic-level insight enabled by modelling. From a methodological perspective, we address the performance of hybrid density functionals to study structural and electronic properties of solids. 

Jawwad Darr - Nanotechnology and Materials Discovery

Jawwad Darr - Nanotechnology and Materials Discovery

Jawwad Darr Research Image

Research of Dr Darr's Clean Materials Technology Group (about 10 researchers at present) is concerned with the application of green principles and clean technologies for the rapid and efficient syntheses of nanoparticles or new inorganic materials. Our research is very applied and multidisciplinary covering chemistry, nanomaterials, high pressure engineering, supercritical fluids and automation. Dr Darr is currently leading two large EPSRC/industry funded consortia in nanomaterials discovery and scale-up engineering of nanomaterials, respectively.

Julian Evans - Powder processing, solid freeforming and nanocomposites

Julian Evans Research Image

Our work includes Polymer-clay Nanocomposites in which low levels of mineral addition increase mechanical and transport properties of polymers, Ordered, Biomimetic Mineral-polymer Composites in which layered minerals at high volume fraction emulate the structure of mollusc shells, Extrusion freeforming of EBG structures and hard tissue scaffolds and High Throughput experiments on ceramics. The image shows a robotic ink-jet printer for making thick film ceramic samples.

Zheng Xiao Guo - Multiscale syntheses and simulations

Zheng Xiao Guo - Multiscale syntheses and simulations

Zheng Xiao Guo Research Image

Our research focuses on multiscale syntheses and simulations of nanostructures and materials for energy/hydrogen generation, storage, energy catalysis, biofuel cells and biointerfaces. Fundamental theories are coupled with ab initio, molecular dynamics, cellular automata and finite element simulations for materials design and discovery, while selected materials are synthesised by mechanochemical alloying, self-assembly, deposition and precipitation methods. Materials systems cover clusters, metals, hydrides, oxides, metal-doped carbon nanostructures, and functional hybrid systems that show desirable properties for clean energy and biomedical applications.

Graeme Hogarth - Biomimetics of the iron-only hydrogenase enzyme

Graeme Hogarth Research Image

Our work centres on molecular transition metal chemistry. Current projects include; the synthesis and study of diiron dithiolate complexes as biomimetic models for the iron-only hydrogenase enzyme, which is used in nature to convert protons to hydrogen, the use of well-defined gold clusters as precursors to gold nanoparticles for applications in heterogeneous catalysis, and the preparation of backbone functionalised dithiocarbamate complexes for applications in materials and biological processes. 

Nora de Leeuw - Computational materials science

Nora de Leeuw - Computational materials science

Nora de Leeuw Research Image

We develop and apply quantitative computational techniques to investigate at the atomic level structure/property relationships in a range of natural minerals and functional materials. Present research areas include 1) precious metal and transition-metal oxide surfaces for selective oxidation catalysis; 2) radiation damage in geological materials; 3) nucleation and growth of metal and metal-oxide nano-clusters; and 4) materials for bio-medical engineering.

Paul McMillan - High pressure chemistry

Paul McMillan Research Image

Our group explores high pressure solid state chemistry using large volume presses and diamond anvil cells with in situ studies carried out using optical spectroscopy and synchrotron X-ray scattering. Synthesis-properties studies of new classes of functional materials are also being carried out at ambient conditions using chemical precursor techniques. New research areas in high pressure biophysics and microbiology are being developed. In situ optical spectroscopy (Raman, FTIR) is applied to problems in Earth and planetary science, catalysis and biomedicine. Structural studies of glasses and amorphous materials including polyamorphism and liquid-liquid phase transitions are on-going.

Ivan Parkin - Chemical vapour deposition and nanomaterials

Ivan Parkin - Chemical vapour deposition and nanomaterials

Ivan Parkin Research Image

Our group is concerned with developing innovative routes to technologically important inorganic materials. We also have a strong interest in the preparation and characterisation of new materials especially aspects of composition and microstructure. The group is involved in research in Atmospheric Pressure Chemical Vapour Deposition (APCVD), solid state metathesis, self propagating high temperature synthesis, antimicrobial coatings (both hard surfaces and polymers), the formation of gold nanoparticle conjugates and combinatorial CVD. We have also developed projects in frustrated magnetism and metal oxychloride intercalation chemistry, amorphous alloys, chemical synthesis of nano-scaled materials and ELNES.

A recent research highlight on surfaces engineered to have different interactions with water can be viewed here.

Derek Tocher - X-ray crystallography

Sally Price Research Image

The Tocher group collaborates in the area of X-ray crystallography across a wide range of chemistry, from conformational studies of flexible organic molecules to characterisation of new inorganic and organometallic compounds with potenital applications in catalysis and materials chemistry. Of particular interest is the study of polymorphism, work carried out in conjunction with computational chemists with a view to gaining an full understanding of the factors controlling the crystallization process.

Gopinathan Sankar - Catalyst design and characterisation

Gopinathan Sankar - Catalyst design and characterisation

We have been involved in designing catalytic reaction based on the structure determined from various characterisation techniques. Some of the recent examples include (a) the development of iron containing nanoporous aluminophosphate catalysts for the selective oxidation of benzene to phenol in presence of nitrous oxide and (b) supported nano gold clusters for the selective oxidation of hydrocarbon. Nanoporous materials. In addition to the above, we have been involved in developing in situ methods for following the crystallisation process of (a) nanoporouos materials, (b) multi-component mixed metal oxide catalysts and (c) nano materials. Majority of the characterisation is carried out using Synchrotron Radiation techniques

Andrea Sella - Lanthanides and mesostructured optically active materials

Andrea Sella Research Image

We are interested in the synthesis and electronic structure of lanthanide complexes, particularly the bonding in cerium (IV) species. We are also involved in the low temperature templated synthesis of mesostructured materials of such semiconductors as titanium dioxide, silicon, and germanium.