Prof. Ken Wade, FRS

Emeritus Professor in the Department of Chemistry (email at

Research Interests

Present research interests involve cluster, organometallic and polymer chemistry and heterogeneous catalysis, and include synthetic, spectroscopic and theoretical work on both fundamental and applied themes.

The area of cluster chemistry that particularly interests us is that concerned with compounds in which there are more bonding contacts between the cluster atoms than are explicable using classical bonding schemes. The electron counting approaches that ha ve become the standard way of treating such systems originated in Durham, and we continue to develop them, working out how to rationalise or predict cluster structures and the electron distribution therein. Experimental studies on icosahedral carboranes, mixed hydrides of boron and carbon whose derivative chemistry is a fascinating blend of organometallic and aromatic chemistry, are being carried out both to supplement the theoretical work and to incorporate carborane polyhedra in new types of macrocycles, polymers and ceramics.

The macrocycles,1 in which carborane icosahedra are linked by aromatic rings or alkynyl units, provide rigid frameworks on which to attach metal atoms at well-defined distances for catalytic or other purposes. The polymers, composed of the same units either directly linked or connected by ether or ketone links as in poly-ether-ketones (PEK), have the high thermal and chemical stability needed for specialist applications, whilst the ceramic materials preparable therefrom at high temperatures turn out to be interesting variations on conventional boron carbide, which has CB11 icosahedra linked by CBC units.2 Electron delocalisation between cluster polyhedra and unsaturated substituents, which is necessary if such systems are to find electronic applications, is being probed by experimental and theoretical studies on selected model compounds.3

In other studies, ways are being explored of incorporating BN units in carbon fibre, to increase its strength and improve its resistance to oxidation, and novel types of heterogeneous (methanol synthesis) catalysts are being prepared from carboxylates of the metals concerned. In all of our experimental studies, the basic philosophy is to prepare and characterise as thoroughly as appropriate new types of compounds or materials that may find useful applications, whilst our theoretical work aims to provide a better understanding of such systems.

References W. Clegg, W.R. Gill, J.A.H. MacBride and K. Wade, Angew. Chem. Internat. Edn. Engl., 1993, 32, 1328. D.A. Brown, H.M. Colquhoun, J.A. Daniels, J.A.H. MacBride, I.R. Stephenson and K. Wade, J. Mater. Chem., 1992, 2, 793. R. Coult, M.A. Fox, W.R. Gill, K. Wade and W. Clegg,Polyhedron, 1992, 11, 2717.

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