Research

Converting simple starting materials into complex products using only a light source (synthetic photochemistry) is especially attractive to organic chemists, particularly from the point of view of green chemistry: waste is minimized, and light is readily available. In addition, photochemical routes often allow efficient access to complex frameworks (particularly to strained molecules and intermediates) that cannot be generated using ground-state chemistry, and photochemical equipment is simple to set up and relatively cheap. However, photochemical approaches are not routinely considered in synthetic routes. Why? Though many reasons are often cited, a critical reason is that most synthetic organic chemists lack sufficient education and/or experience in photochemistry and photophysics, and are unable to effectively optimise photochemical processes or to think “photoretrosynthetically”. Thus, they avoid photoreactions, often mistakenly believing these reactions to be unreliable and unpredictable. Our research programme aims not only to increase the visibility, appeal and application of synthetic photochemistry both in academia and industry, but also to address the skills shortage that we face in this fascinating area of synthesis.

Our research focuses broadly on organic photochemistry, particularly on enantioselective photoreactions, and the synthesis and applications of four-membered heterocycles and carbocycles. We are also interested in developing photochemical reactions driven by solar light (direct and sensitised irradiation), as well as scale-up using flow photochemical approaches. Selected current projects include:

  • Photochemical synthesis of stereodefined azetidines, diazetidines and oxazetidines, for applications as novel 3D fragments and versatile synthetic intermediates
  • New photochemical methods for the expedient synthesis of cubane derivatives, for applications as novel 3D fragments as well as a variety of other applications
  • Enantioselective [2+2] photocycloadditions catalysed by metal complexes

We own a wide range of photochemical equipment:

  • A Vapourtec easy-PhotoChem flow photoreactor system equipped with both a mercury lamp (and filters) and a 365 nm LED lamp
  • Two Rayonet batch reactors (wavelengths: 254/300/350/420/575 nm)
  • Four immersion well reactors from Photochemical Reactors Ltd (running 400W medium pressure mercury lamps/16W low-pressure mercury lamps) and assorted associated glassware.
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