Multi-million pound investments in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering have resulted in a range of state-of-the-art facilities. The well equipped research laboratories are augmented by excellent computational facilities and some of the most modern instrumentation avaliable. In addition to an instrument pool containing a range of infrared and ultra violet / visible spectrometers, gas chromatographs and high-performance liquid chromatographs, polarographs, etc., all with associated data stations, major items of equipment possessed by the School include four F.T. NMR spectrometers (2 x 300, 1 x 400 and 1 x 500 MHz), two four-circle X-ray diffractometers, one powder X-ray diffractometer, a circular dichroism spectrometer, four mass spectrometers (including a double focussing instrument and two GC / mass spectrometers), F.T. infrared spectrometers and a range of the most modern facilities for laser-based spectroscopy, including nanosecond pulsed systems.
The research equipment is underpinned by excellent backup which is provided by electrical, electronic and mechanical workshops with more than thirty support staff. Some of these staff work in our Analytical Services and Enviromental Projects Division (ASEP) which, together with the multidisciplinary QUESTOR Centre for environmentally-related research provides a unique research environment for both postgraduates and academic staff.
Good contacts are maintained with the European chemical industry, and there are numerous joint research projects. In recent years, such projects have included collaborations with ICI, Glaxo, Du Pont, Pfizer, Rhone Poulenc, Ciba Geigy, Great Lakes Chemical, Merck Shape and Dohme, Gallaghers, Johnson Matthey, Unilever, BP, Loctite, the British Museum, and many others. Members of staff also collaborate on interdisciplinary projects with other departments in the University, for example those of Biochemstry and Biology, Medicine, Physics, Agriculture and Food Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Computer Science. In addition, joint projects are also being carried out with other Universities in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
The equipment available for single crystal structure determinations in the school comprises two four-circle diffractometers. One operates with Cu-Ka radiation at ambient temperature which is principally used for light-atom structures, including determinations of absolute configuration. The second operates with Mo-Ka radiation at low temperature (typically 150K) and is used where heavy elements are present and/or where the crystals are unstable. The laboratory has a throughput of approximately 150 data sets a year, with collection times ranging from a few hours up to ten days. An x-ray powder diffraction facility is available and is used for isomorphic and purity comparisons with single crystal data. Structure solutions and data analyses are carried out on either PCs or the Silicon Graphics unix cluster using a range of graphics programs for visualising details of the structures. Both the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD) and Inorganic Chemistry Structural Database (ICSD) are available in-house. A departmental data collection and structure solution service is provided by Dr M. Nieuwenhuyzen (Woody), who also has experience in the use of synchrotron radiation for single crystal, powder and EXAFS studies. Researchers with interests in structural analysis are encouraged to gain "hands-on" experience in all stages of the process, and training in the use of the equipment and software is available as required.
The ASEP unit carries out analysis and problem solving for industry and public bodies throughout Ireland and the U.K. Much of this work is concerned with environmental analysis for which there is a rapidly expanding market due to increasingly rigorous legislation. Contracts have been completed for small companies lacking facilities of their own, as well as for industrial giants.
Located in the David Keir Building, the QUESTOR Centre is the first industry-university co-operative research centre carrying out fundamental environment-related scientific research in Europe. The Centre is interdisciplinary, with involvement from Agriculture and Food Science, Biology, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Psychology and Computer Science.
Industrial participation is crucial, and there are currently 22 industrial members of the Centre, who contribute an annual sum for research. However, more importantly, they attend the Centre every six months to give advice on the research being carried out. This advice helps to keep the research, which is fundamental, relevant to industrial interests and concerns.
The Centre received pump priming of £745.000 over a six year period from the International Fund for Ireland. Recent funding includes £2.74m from the EU to develop a clean technology and demonstration facility and a further £1.05m from the IFI for an interdisciplinary outreach team to involve SMEs. The QUESTOR laboratory, which is furnished with the latest equipment, was opened on the 24th October 1989 by Prof. David Bellamy, the botanist and broadcaster. In his opening speech he described the Centre as a very bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
The Centre is continuously recruiting both research staff and students, and it has been found to be very valuable to the University for its ability to promote interdisciplinary research. QUESTOR is currently carrying out collaborative work with the US Centre of Excellence for environmental research, located in New Jersey. Two QUESTOR postgraduate students spent one month in New Jersey in October 1990 and links with RE.CO.R.D., the equivalent French Centre, have also been established.
QUILL was setup in 1999 and is the first research centre to focus on ionic liquids in the world. Its structure is based on the successful QUESTOR centre, i.e. it is an industry-university co-operative research centre. This centre performs research into ionic liquids ranging from fundamental studies into their structure to applied catalytic research as well as chemical engineering aspects. Currently there are 19 industrial members of QUILL from a range of multinational companies spanning the whole chemical industry. To enable the breadth of research to be performed, members of staff from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and the School of Mathematics and Physics direct the research. Currently over 50 researchers participate ionic liquids research and the status of QUILL has been recognised by its designation as a Marie Curie training site.