• Room 01.412 - David Keir Building

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of: - Development of ionic liquids for sustainable and green chemistry applied to catalysis, separations, and energy applications. - Use of neutron scattering/isotopic substitution to study disordered (liquid and glassy) materials.

1993 …2020

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research Focus

Green chemistry (https://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry) is fundamental to our approach to science: We should reduce the generation of waste materials or energy, and efforts have to be directed towards the use of cleaner, more efficient chemical transformations and into the design and development of sustainable materials and manufacturing processes so that we do not unduly deplete or contaminate our available resources.

My research focuses on exploring how ionic liquids can be used in green chemical and engineering processes. This involves design, synthesis, measurement and then (hopefully) translation of this knowledge into delivery of useful results.

Achievements

I completed my PhD studies with Joyce Lockhart at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne on the preparation of steroidal bioconjugated Tc-99m complexes as heart imaging agents., before undertaking postdoctoral positions with Duncan Bruce (at Sheffield University) and Klaus Praefcke (Technical University, Berlin) working on lyotropic and thermotropic platinum group metallomesogens. He then moved to Queen’s University Belfast, to work with Prof Ken Seddon on used of ionic liquids in industrial green and sustainable chemistry in 1996. After four years as a staff scientist at the University of Alabama (with Robin Rogers) he returned to Belfast to work on industry funded programs first with BP and then with PETRONAS, and was appointed Lecturer in Chemistry in 2011 and Professor in 2019.

I have published over 120 publications (cited over 16,000 times, h-index 57) and was placed at number 59 in the world in the 2011 Times Higher Education Supplement’s rankings of the top chemists of the past decade.

Our work largely centres on trying to determine where ionic liquids have a role addressing chemical and process problems in new and more effective ways. Highlights have included:

  • Greener, more sustainable chemistry and processing: The first report on ionic liquid solvents for cellulose (JACS 2002, 124, 4974-4975) promoted unprecedented interest in the use of ionic liquids in bio-resource processing and lead to the US EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award in 2005.
  • Extraction and separations processes: Mercury from gas and oil In partnership with PETRONAS, we targeted the design of ionic liquids as solvents to capture mercury from oil and gas feeds. The worlds first commercialised supported ionic liquid process, Hycapure-HgTM, was developed for mercury capture with the first full-scale commercial trial started in October 2011. QUILL (the Queen’s University Ionic Liquids Laboratory) and PETRONAS won three global IChemE awards for Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering, Sustainable Technology, and Chemical Engineering Project of the Year in 2013 for this technology. We also were awarded the 2014 IChemE Nicklin medal and RSC Chemistry Technology Innovation Award in 2014. Continuing studies, including operando EXAFS at the Diamond Light Source have revealed even more detail into the mercury capture processes.
  • Aromatic extraction and sensing with ionic liquids We have ionic liquids that respond with a colour change to the presence of polyaromatic molecules such as naphthalene, forming brightly coloured charge-transfer complexes. We have also found that the ionic liquids can be readily incorporated into porous silica ionogels, forming robust glassy solids which still respond in the same way in contact with aromatic molecules. Ongoing interest to see whether these materials can be used for sensing or dearomatisation of fuels.

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Projects

Research Output

Enhanced Extraction of Phenol from Model Oils Using Ionic Liquids Elucidated with Neutron Diffraction

Turner, A., Byrne, E., Pereira, T. & Holbrey, J. D., 08 Apr 2020, In : Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP). 22, 18, p. 10219-20226 8 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Hydration of sulfobetaine dizwitterions as a function of alkyl spacer length

    Hammond, O., Level, G., Moura, L., Imberti, S., Holbrey, J. & Blesic, M., 29 Jun 2020, In : Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP).

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
    File
  • 3 Downloads (Pure)
    Open Access
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  • 1 Downloads (Pure)
  • 2 Citations (Scopus)
  • Datasets

    Understanding the effect of pressure on ionic liquid structure

    Holbrey, J. (Creator), Hardacre, C. (Creator), Norman, S. (Creator) & Youngs, T. (Creator), STFC ISIS, 2011

    Dataset

    Solvation and structure of lithium in bis{(trifluoromethyl)sulfonyl}imide based ionic liquids

    Holbrey, J. (Creator), Jacquemin, J. (Creator), Hardacre, C. (Creator), Dunckley, H. (Creator) & Youngs, T. (Creator), STFC ISIS, 2012

    Dataset

    Speciation and complex-ion formation in protic ionic liquids

    Holbrey, J. (Creator), McCune, J. A. (Creator), Coleman, F. (Creator), Youngs, T. (Creator), Turner, A. (Creator) & Swadzba-Kwasny, G. (Creator), STFC ISIS, 01 Mar 2016

    Dataset

    Modes of pi-stacking in neat and aqueous solutions of 1-naphthyl-3-methylimidazolium ionic liquids

    Youngs, T. (Creator), Holbrey, J. (Creator), Turner, A. (Creator), Coleman, F. (Creator) & Swadzba-Kwasny, G. (Creator), STFC ISIS, 2012

    Dataset

    Activities

    The Study of N-Heterocyclic Carbenes (NHCs) in Ionic Liquids

    John Holbrey (Examiner)

    22 Feb 2019

    Activity: Examination typesPhD external examination

    UK Neutron and Muon Science and User Meeting

    John Holbrey (Participant)

    29 Apr 201901 May 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Design and Implementation of Ionic Liquids Derived Catalysts in Organic Reactions

    John Holbrey (Examiner)

    15 May 2019

    Activity: Examination typesPhD external examination

    Review of Disordered Materials research at ISIS

    John Holbrey (Participant)

    27 Mar 201828 Mar 2018

    Activity: Consultancy typesWork on advisory panel to industry or government or non-government organisation

    Thesis

    Chemical recycle of polyester waste using novel zwitterionic catalysts

    Author: Wang, L., 2019

    Supervisor: Holbrey, J. (Supervisor) & Swadzba-Kwasny, G. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters

    File

    Chemical Treatment Approaches For Industrial Plant Decontamination: Mercury remedation

    Author: Liu, Y., 04 Dec 2017

    Supervisor: Atkins, M. (Supervisor) & Holbrey, J. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters

    File

    Ionic Liquids for Main Group Catalysis

    Author: Brown, L., Jul 2020

    Supervisor: Holbrey, J. (Supervisor) & Swadzba-Kwasny, M. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

    File

    Preparation of green non-ionic surfactants from 2,3-epoxy-1-propanol

    Author: Han, J., 31 Oct 2017

    Supervisor: Atkins, M. (Supervisor) & Holbrey, J. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters

    File