Hydrogen is well recognised for its potential as a future energy source – but few people are aware of another
remarkable ability of the simple H2 molecule. In our lab we are able to generate a special nuclear isomer of hydrogen
gas called “para-hydrogen,” which has the ability to boost the sensitivity in NMR experiments through a process called
“hyperpolarisation.” This means an NMR spectrum that might normally take hours to acquire - we can obtain in mere
The challenge is this: how can we incorporate para-hydrogen into molecules? Your project can focus on any of the
- Transition metal complexes: Certain catalysts based on iridium and ruthenium undergo oxidative addition to
hydrogen, resulting in hyperpolarized metal hydrides that can be used in various ways. You will have the opportunity
to synthesise and explore a new class of ligands and test how their complexes activate para-hydrogen.
- Organocatalysts: Some organic compounds can react with hydrogen without the use of metals. Only a few of these
have ever been used in hyperpolarisation, so you will aim to develop the synthesis of new organic molecules that are
capable of reacting with para-hydrogen directly and test their hyperpolarisation activity.
- Heterogeneous catalysts: We recently discovered that simple metal surfaces can hyperpolarise molecules - without
even needing to be hydrogenated! You will aid in developing new reactions and even new chemical reactors to allow
the continuous hyperpolarisation of a range of unexplored molecules.