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Other responsibilities of being Head of Department


Creating conjuncto-boranes
Norman Greenwood Scientist
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Now, in between those two parts of boron chemistry, the gas phase analysis and the metalloboranes, was another field which became possible and that was we learnt how by certain reactions to make what we called conjuncto-boranes. In other words, boron units which were conjoined, joined together, so that instead of forming multicentre bonds we made a B-B bond or other sorts of bonds. And it turned out that we were able to do this because by reacting, say, thermolising, heating up decaborane... as you know one of the products of decaborane reactions is a gunge... a polymer, and no-one had any clear ideas what the structure was so we worked this up into separate fractions and were able to show first by mass spectrometry and then by NMR [nuclear magnetic resonance], which was also a very valuable technique, boron or proton-decoupled with boron and so forth, to work out what the chemical structures of these were and they were complex borane clusters conjoined either by boron-boron bonds or by sideways bonding or three in a triangle and so forth and we got B20 compounds, B30 compounds and could be quite certain that it was what we were saying because we also did the mass spectrometry and counted up the masses precisely and got the chemical compounds.

Norman Greenwood (1925-2012) was born in Australia and graduated from Melbourne University before going to Cambridge. His wide-ranging research in inorganic and structural chemistry made major advances in the chemistry of boron hydrides and other main-group element compounds. He also pioneered the application of Mössbauer spectroscopy to problems in chemistry. He was a prolific writer and inspirational lecturer on chemical and educational themes, and held numerous visiting professorships throughout the world.

Listeners: Brian Johnson

Professor Brian FG Johnson FRS, FRSE, FRS Chem, FAcad Eu, FAS. Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Edinburgh 1991-1995, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry University of Cambridge 1995-2005, Master Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1999-2005. Research interests include studies of transition metal carbonyls, organometallic chemistry, nano- particles and homogeneous catalysis. Professor Johnson is the author of over 1000 research articles and papers.

Tags: nuclear magnetic resonance

Duration: 1 minute, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2011

Date story went live: 25 November 2011