March 1st, 2022 Webinar Speakers

Our next webinar will take place via the internet on Tuesday March 1st at 10 AM EST/3 PM GMT. Sign up on our mailing list to receive the Zoom link!

We hope to see/hear from you all at one of our sessions or as one of the next speakers. If you are an early career scientist and would like to present your research, don't hesitate to submit an abstract today! For now, please learn more about our current speakers and their research below. We also thank the generous support from Cell Reports Physical Science, Merck, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Our featured speakers this week are Diego Sorbelli (Graduate Student, University of Perugia, Italy), and Dr Christopher Larsen (Principal Investigator, University of Geneva, Switzerland).


DIEGO SORBELLI (on Twitter @DiegoSorbelli)

Biography: Diego Sorbelli was born and raised in Umbria, central Italy and attended the University of Perugia, receiving his B.S. in Chemistry in 2017. Subsequently, he joined the European Master in Theoretical Chemistry and Computational Modelling, receiving, after a traineeship at the University of Toulouse in France, his M.S. at the University of Perugia in 2019. Currently, he is a third-year graduate student in the “Theory for energy” Group at the University of Perugia and works on the computational modelling of gold’s molecular compounds for applications in catalysis and energy-related fields under the supervision of Prof. Paola Belanzoni and Dr. Leonardo Belpassi.

Title of Talk: The unconventional reactivity of a gold-aluminyl complex with carbon dioxide: unlocking new perspectives for gold chemistry with computational modelling

Abstract: Very recently, the first example of a gold-aluminyl complex was characterized and it was shown to surprisingly react with carbon dioxide in mild experimental conditions to form an insertion product. Carbon dioxide inserts in the Au-Al bond and the presence of an Au-C coordination mode led to surmise that the Au-Al bond is highly polarized with a partial negative charge on gold, which enables its reactivity as a nucleophile. However, the mechanism of this reaction was never investigated neither experimentally nor theoretically. Using a carefully chosen combination of state-of-the-art tools in the framework of Density Functional Theory, we unraveled a two-step mechanism for the reaction that is unambiguously related to the presence of an electron-rich covalent Au-Al bond, thus highlighting a cooperative heterobimetallic reactivity in which Al has a central role in activating CO2. Starting from this, we expanded the modelling of such reactivity in order to assess the features of Group 13 element and ligand effects and with the perspective of working towards a rational computational design of compounds that can (catalytically) activate carbon dioxide and other small molecules of interest.

DR CHRISTOPHER LARSEN (on Twitter @LarsenLab)

Biography: I received my PhD (supervised by Prof. Keith Gordon and Assoc. Prof. Nigel Lucas) from the University of Otago in 2016. I then held postdoc positions in the group of Prof. Oliver Wenger at the University of Basel (2016-2019) and in the solution phase chemistry group at the Stanford PULSE Institute, led by Prof. Kelly Gaffney and Dr Amy Cordones-Hahn (2019-2021). I recently started my independent career as an SNSF Ambizione fellow at the University of Geneva, and am joining the University of Auckland this August as a Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry. My research interests include the development of photoluminescent first-row transition-metal complexes, and photoinduced electron-transfer in non-traditional molecular systems.

Title of Talk: "Making Earth-Abundant Transition-Metal Complexes Glow with Chelating Isocyanide Ligands"

Abstract: The long-lived metal-to-ligand charge-transfer (MLCT) excited states of precious-metal (e.g. Ru(II), Ir(III)) complexes play key roles in light-emitting devices, photovoltaics, photoredox catalysis, artificial photosynthesis and photodynamic therapy. However, these are among the least abundant and most expensive elements in the earth’s crust. There has therefore been a long-standing interest in replacing them with earth-abundant transition-metal complexes with comparable photophysical properties – namely, long-lived photoluminescent MLCT excited states.

The search for such complexes has proven extremely challenging, and there are still very few reports of earth-abundant transition-metal complexes that exhibit MLCT photoluminescence. This presentation will cover recent work in the Wenger group on accessing MLCT photoluminescence in low-valent earth-abundant transition-metal complexes bearing chelating isocyanide ligands, with particular emphasis on our recent report of a Mn(I) complex with MLCT photoluminescence and photoreactivity.

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