Inorganic synthesis

Synthetic {Inorganic} Chemistry group: S{I}C@Vic

Synthetic chemistry is the keystone of chemical research: in order to study something you first of all need to make it (with the notable exception of quantum chemical calculations – and even research in this area usually benefits through verification of their results using experimentally derived data).

We do a lot of 'inorganic chemistry' research in our labs, but we also understand that the boundaries between inorganic/organic chemistry and materials science are not as distinct as they used to be. Our interests lie in the synthesis and characterisation of the complex systems involving research in multiple disciplines and areas. Our projects span many areas involving the synthesis of inorganic and organic compounds, and also materials chemistry (see list of projects).

Ryan and Dylan using the Glovebox
Ryan and Dylan using the Glovebox


The Synthetic {Inorganic} Chemistry Group at Victoria University of Wellington (S{I}C@Vic) is led by two academics who run independent research programs, but share some common interests (see Prof John Spencer for related organometallic chemistry research at Victoria University of Wellington). Both lead researchers have extensive experience in laboratories around the world and are well established in their fields, with over 150 publications in the chemical literature.

Professor of Chemistry · Professor of Inorganic Chemistry
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

Associate Professor
School of Chemical and Physical Sciences


Many of the compounds that are synthesized in our laboratories require special conditions to prepare and study. For example, most of the metal complexes that we make react with oxygen and moisture from the air (sometimes by spontaneously bursting into flames) and so we protect them from this by using a nitrogen filled glove-box and / or double manifold vacuum lines (or Schlenk lines). Using these techniques we are able to safely handle and manipulate these reactive chemicals and use them extensively in our research projects.

In order to definitively prove the chemical composition of the new compounds that we make in our lab, we use a combination of analytical techniques. Most of the molecular systems we research contain NMR active nuclei and so we are able to use multi-nuclear experiments to examine the structures. In addition to routine 1H and 13C NMR spectra that tell us about the ligands we have attached to the metal, where appropriate we also utilize 11B, 19F, 27Al, 29Si, 31P, 77Se, 119Sn, 195Pt etc. experiments that help to determine the structure of compounds in solution. We also use variable temperature NMR studies to examine any fluxional behavior and obtain kinetic data, and frequently monitor reactions using this technique to observe reactions as they progress.


Perhaps the most powerful technique for determining the molecular structure of a compound is X-ray diffraction. Using the new Aglient Dualsource SuperNova X-ray diffractometer that was installed at Victoria University of Wellington in 2015, we are able to obtain accurate models of the atomic connectivity and crystal structure for complexes that form suitable crystalline phases. The S{I}C group uses this instrument routinely and to date has obtained structural information on compounds incorporating a range of metal elements, including Li, Mg, Al, K, Ga, Ge, In, Sn, Sb, Pb, Bi and Sm.