Robin Perutz

I studied the structure of metal carbonyl fragments for my PhD under J. J. Turner. In that period in Cambridge and Newcastle from 1971-74, I established the existence of one of the first σ-complexes, Cr(CO)5(CH4), and the first metal-Xe bond, Cr(CO)5Xe, by photochemical matrix isolation. After periods in Muelheim, Edinburgh and Oxford, I moved to York in 1983 and was promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 1991. Along the route, I broadened my interests to encompass many aspects of the reaction mechanisms, photochemistry, spectroscopy and synthesis of organo-transition metal and metal hydride complexes. For instance, I have measured the rates of oxidative addition of H-H, C-H, B-H and Si-H bonds at 4-coordinate Ru(0) centres and shown that oxidative addition of dihydrogen may occur with essentially no activation barrier. These studies required a combination of product investigation by solution NMR spectroscopy, nanosecond laser flash photolysis and matrix isolation. Another major strand of my work has been the development of carbon-fluorine activation at transition metals, culminating in new routes to metal fluoride complexes and fluoro-organics. Recently, I have turned my hand to supramolecular photochemistry, concentrating on mechanistic studies of compounds designed and synthesised in house. In this research, I have demonstrated that photo-induced charge separation can occur in times as short as 10-12 s by use of ultrafast infrared spectroscopy. This research has led to the current emphasis on solar fuels and the reduction of carbon dioxide with visible light. Throughout my work, I have collaborated with theorists to understand the wider implications of my experiments. Recent examples include comparisons of the selectivity for C-H versus C-F bond activation and the development of computational approaches to bond energy correlations. The theoretical predictions of the increase in metal carbon bond strength on ortho-fluorine substitution of a metal aryl have been vindicated by experiment. I have delivered the Tilden Lecture of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Dow Lectures at the University of Ottawa and the Seaborg Lectures at the University of California, Berkeley. I have been awarded the Nyholm Medal and Lectureship of The Royal Society of Chemistry for 2005. I was awarded the Sacconi Medal of the Italian Chemical Society in 2008 and the Franco-British Award of the French Chemical Society in 2009. I am serving as President of Dalton Division of The Royal Society of Chemistry until July 2010.

Current Research Group

photo of Robin Perutz's research group

  • Marius Câmpian, returned to York as a postdoc after spending two years during his PhD here. Marius has prevously worked as an associate researcher at "Babes-Bolyai" University from Cluj-Napoca (Romania) from where got his PhD. Now he is working on photochemical bonds activation by half sandwich rhodium complexes.
  • Naser Jasim, Experimental Officer, supports the research group and does research on C-F bond activation and metal fluoride complexes. He did his BSc and MSc in Baghdad and later a PhD in York.
  • Ruqia Nazir. PhD Student. She is working on synthesis of transition metal fluoride complexes and their reactions in the gas phase using mass spectrometry. She obtained her first degree from University of Peshawar in Pakistan.
  • Sadia Nazir writes ‘I am a final year PhD student in Bahhuddin Zakariya Unversity Multan Pakistan,working in York as a visiting student on metal fluoride complexes and study of hydrogen bonding. I did my B. Sc and M.Sc in Bahhuddin Zakariya Unversity Multan Pakistan.’
  • Barbara Procacci. PhD Student, working on the comparative photo-induced oxidative addition of C-H, Si-H, B-H and B-B bonds, She did her MChem in Perugia (Italy).
  • Jacob Schneider, postdoc, is working on supramolecular photochemistry towards the reduction of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. The project is part of a solar energy consortium to develop a nanocell capable of tandem artificial photosynthesis. He received his PhD from the University of Rochester, USA in 2008.
  • David Taylor PhD student, jointly supervised by Robin Perutz and Simon Duckett, working on mechanistic aspects of transfer hydrogenation and dehydrogenation. This work is in collaboration with NPIL Pharma (Huddersfield). He completed his MChem in York in 2006. In his spare time he enjoys playing the piano, snooker and learning to fly.
  • Olga Torres. Postdoc, working on the photosynthesis of organometallic complexes with weak ligands using in-situ laser photolysis with NMR detection. Project aims include: NMR detection of new metal alkane complexes, metal-xenon complexes and metal-CO2 complexes. She did her BSc and her PhD at the University of Zaragoza.
  • Janet Welch writes: 'I am a fourth year PhD student, jointly supervised by Robin Perutz and Simon Duckett. I did my first degree at the University of Wales, Swansea. After my degree I did a PGCE and taught for 2 years before moving to York and deciding to do a PhD. My work involves using NMR techniques with in-situ photochemistry and para-hydrogen enhancement (PHIP) to help to develop a new time-resolved NMR spectroscopy technique. In my spare time I enjoy, origami, playing board games and practicing new tricks with poi.'

Research Links

The research group has active collaborative links within the Department of Chemistry in York, with research groups elsewhere in the UK and abroad. Robin Perutz is also a member of two European Union groups:

Collaboration in York with the research groups of:

Collaboration with research groups outside York:

European Union Networks


M. Peruzzini (Florence, Coordinator) O. Lev (Jerusalem)
A. Caminade (Toulouse) R. N. Perutz (York)
R van Eldik (Erlangen) R. Poli (Toulouse)
F. Joo (Debrecen) A. Pombeiro (Lisbon)
A. Lledos (Barcelona) A. Romerosa (Almeria)
E. Shubina (Moscow)  

Optically and electronically controlled states of metal-based molecular systems

A. Vlcek (Queen Mary, London, coordinator) L. Hammarström (Uppsala)
B. Albinsson (Göteborg) W. Kaim (Stuttgart)
P. Belser (Fribourg) F. Odobel (Nantes)
A. K. Duhme-Klair (York) M. Persico (Pisa)
M. Chergui (Lausanne) R. N. Perutz (York)
C. Daniel (Strasbourg) S. Zalis (Prague)


Research support comes from EPSRC and the European Union

Current grants:

  • EPSRC: ‘NMR and IR Studies of Activation of Small Molecules by Organometallic Complexes’ in collaboration with Professors Simon Duckett (York) and Mike George (Nottingham)
  • European Union Research training Network ‘Aquachem’:
  • EPSRC CASE ‘Hydrogenation and Dehydrogenation without Hydrogen’ Industrial Studentship with NPIL Pharma in collaboration with Professor Simon Duckett ( York )