Professor Neil B McKeown (FRSE)

Crawford Chair of Chemistry

Research summary

Synthesis of organic materials, Polymers of Intrinsic Microporosity, membranes, CO2 capture, nanoporous molecular crystals

Research Overview

Our research group uses synthetic chemistry to investigate the fundamental relationship between molecular structure and the properties of organic materials. This enables the design and synthesis of novel functional materials suitable for a range of applications of relevance to the pressing challenges of energy and environment.  Our focus at present is the synthesis of novel types of nanoporous materials and for this we use two distinct strategies.

1. The synthesis of polymers and organic molecules that cannot pack space efficiently due to their rigidity and contorted molecular structures to give amorphous microporous materials.  For example, our Polymers of Intrinsic Microporosity (PIMs) combine a microporous structure with the ease of polymer processability and show great promise for use as selective gas separation membranes.  Target membrane applications are carbon capture and natural gas purification.


2. We have discovered that the co-crystallization of suitable organic compounds can provide molecular microporous materials. For example, our Phthalocyanine Unsolvated Nanoporous crystals (PUNCs) are prepared from the simple crystallisation of a phthalocyanine derivative with a bidentate ligand that acts as a molecular wall-tie to stabilize the crystals. PUNCs allow the precise spatial control over some useful functional entities, which should allow us to assemble nanoporous materials with applications in photocatalysis and spintronics.