Module Provider: Chemistry
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: Non-modular pre-requisites Part 3 Chemistry
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Matthew Almond


Type of module:

Summary module description:
Fundamentals of catalysis, including thermodynamic and kinetic principles. Transition metals and their compounds as catalysts. Homogeneous and heterogeneous transition metal catalysis. Transition metal organometallic chemistry as a basis for homogeneous catalysis of organic reactions. Reaction intermediates and catalytic cycles.


The fundamentals of catalysis are considered; in particular with regard to reaction mechanisms and intermediates. Homogeneous catalysis will be taught through specific examples illustrating the application of this and other related chemistry in important industrial contexts to increase student understanding of the fundamentals and their uses. This material will be backed up by a consideration of intermediates and mechanisms in coordination and organometallic chemistry. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

After studying this module students will be able to:

- explain the concepts of catalysis, and discuss their applications,

- analyse numerical and conceptual problems in catalysis,

- interpret data on catalytic cycles, and propose mechanisms for reactions.

Additional outcomes:

Gain experience in drawing chemistry together from different branches of the subject (organic, inorganic, organometallic, mechanistic), and improve students’ knowledge of the industrial uses of the relevant chemistry. 

Outline content:

P B Cranwell ( 1 x 2hr workshop), C D Smith (2 lectures + 1 x 2 hour workshop) Principles of catalysis

There will be a brief introduction to principal reactions undertaken at metal centres. The course will discuss reaction pathways of various transition metal catalysts and their application to synthesis. Material for PB Cranwell’s part of the course will be taught by directed self-learning, followed by a workshop.

M J Almond (5 lectures  + 1 x 3 hour oral presentation session) Matrix Isolation: A study of reaction intermediates at low temperatures and their role in organometallic and coordination chemistry. Methods for generating and isolating reactive intermediates; spectroscopic methods for the detection and characterisation of intermediates. Use of infrared spectroscopy and isotopic substitution. Coordinatively unsaturated species e.g. Cr(CO)5; role in reactions of catalytic importance e.g. activation of C-H bonds.

F Hartl (8 lectures + 1 x 2 hour workshop) Mechanisms in Coordination and Organometallic Chemistry Reaction mechanisms in coordination and organometallic chemistry will be considered including photochemical and electrochemical reactions. Spectroscopic detection and identification of intermediates and some principal homogeneous catalytic cycles and examples of photo- and electrocataysis (electron transfer steps) will be included. This will be continued with mechanisms (kinetics with focus on pseudo-first order reactions, thermodynamics, the role of solvent, dissociative and associative reactions of tetrahedral, square planar and octahedral compexes, reaction transients and intermediates), and will finish with the practical example of the BP Cativa process (Ir-catalysed acetic acid production that involves important rate-determining migratory insertion steps dealt with in the preceding lectures) - comparing both industrially exploited thermal and alternative photochemical processes.

Global context:

Builds on student's existing knowledge of organic, inorganic and organometallic chemistry to deliver an appreciation of transition-metal based catalysis in industrial processes important in the manufacture of bulk and fine chemicals. 

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Two one hour lectures per week with approximately one tutorial or workshop on related material every two weeks. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 15
Seminars 9
Guided independent study 76
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 90
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:
1.5 hours

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will give a short oral presentation which will be assessed (10%).

Formative assessment methods:

A series of workshops will provide formative feedback on lecture material. Formative feedback will also be given on the presentation.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    An overall mark of 50%.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Reassessment will be by examination.

    Final year students are not eligible to resit this module unless they have failed their degree programme overall. 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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