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Reaction Intermediates & Mechanisms - CHE00029H

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  • Department: Chemistry
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. John Moore
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The general aim of this module is to develop a knowledge and understanding of a range of reaction intermediates and mechanisms, as well as techniques by which they may be studied. In a more general context, a wider aim is to develop an enhanced ability to interpret experimental data and to design new experiments to test hypotheses.

Reaction intermediates lie at the heart of reaction mechanisms. The first evidence of their role often comes from product studies and indirect experiments which suggest their existence, but the latest techniques also enable us to study these short-lived species directly. Methods for studying intermediates include generating them as fast as they are destroyed, trapping them during their reactions, monitoring them over very short time scales, and modelling their behaviour using computational chemistry.

The module focuses on condensed-phase reactions whose mechanisms involve the formation of short-lived intermediates. It includes a wide variety of examples chosen from inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry, and a detailed consideration of spectroscopic techniques used to study their structure and reactivity. The module gives an interdisciplinary view of recent developments at this frontier of modern chemistry.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • an ability to describe, discuss and explain the role and properties of intermediates in condensed phase reaction mechanisms;

  • an ability to describe, discuss and explain methods to study reaction intermediates, including direct spectroscopic and kinetic observations in real time, as well as trapping and product studies;

  • an ability to interpret experimental data and to design new experiments to test hypotheses on reaction intermediates and mechanisms.

Academic and graduate skills

  • an enhanced ability to interpret experimental data

  • an enhanced ability to design new experiments to test hypotheses

Module content

Reactive intermediates in organic synthesis (WPU: 5 lectures and a 2 h non-assessed workshop)

Generation, structure, stability, detection, physical organic chemistry studies, trapping, and reactions of short-lived organic intermediates, including carbenes and radical anions and cations, and photoredox catalysis.

NMR studies of reaction intermediates and mechanisms (SBD: 5 lectures and a 2 h non-assessed workshop)

Generation, detection, characterisation, and kinetics of reaction intermediates, including examples from inorganic, organic, and biological chemistry.

Mechanistic studies with EPR spectroscopy (VC: 5 lectures and a 2 h non-assessed workshop)

Principles and applications of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy; interpretation of spectra; detecting and trapping free radical intermediates; modern techniques.

Time-resolved spectroscopy for the study of fast reactions (JNM: 5 lectures and a 2 h non-assessed workshop)

Time-resolved UV-visible absorption, emission, infrared, and resonance Raman spectroscopy; pulsed laser methods; organic and inorganic examples.

Interrogation of mechanism in catalytic organometallic chemistry (JML: 5 lectures and a 2 h non-assessed workshop)

Mechanistic studies involving organometallic species; experimental and computational methods to investigate catalytic reaction mechanisms; development of new catalysts with improved activity and selectivity.


Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
RI exam open-book
2 hours 80
JML continuous assessment
N/A 20

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The continuous assessment is based on the course from JML: a research paper is provided, and students complete a comprehension and application exercise in their own time to a deadline before the Christmas break.

The closed exam will have two compulsory 25-mark questions based on the courses from WPU, SBD, VC and JNM.



Module feedback

Written and/or oral feedback for each of the formative (non-assessed) workshops will be given either during the session or within a week.

Written feedback for the continuous assessment will be given within 20 working days.

Closed exam results with per-question breakdown are returned to the students via supervisors within 5 weeks (as per special approval by the University Teaching Committee). Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry web pages when the students receive their marks, so that students can assess their own detailed progress/achievement. The examiners' reports for the questions are made available to the students via the Chemistry web pages.

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be provided by the module course-givers.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.