Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research

Staff Profile

Dr John Errington

Reader Metalorganic Chemistry


Research Interests

My interest in polyoxometalates and metal alkoxides includes their use as homogeneous catalysts, as models for and precursors to heterogeneous catalysts with well defined reactive sites and as nanoscale materials for energy conversion and storage. Our novel approaches to synthesis have enabled detailed systematic investigations of reactivity with extensive use of multinuclear NMR. 17O NMR in particular provides us with significant insight into mechanistic aspects.


After obtaining my BSc in the School of Chemistry at Leeds University, I worked with Prof Bernard L. Shaw FRS for my PhD. The project involved the synthesis and reactivity of transition metal complexes of bulky phosphines and thioethers, particularly of alpha, omega-bis(di-t-butylphosphino)alkanes, and established the basis for what is now an expanding area of organometallic chemistry involving complexes of 'pincer ligands', as reviewed by Milstein in Chem. Rev, 2003, 103, 1759-1792. One notable result was the observation of rapid and reversible C–H bond cleavage under ambient conditions in a metalated Rh complex.

A postdoctoral position with Prof. Malcolm H. Chisholm FRS at Indiana University from November 1980 until December 1981 involved metal-metal multiply-bonded compounds of Mo and W and my work demonstrated that metal-metal bond coupling occurs when chloro, bromo or fluoro ligands replace isopropoxide groups in dinuclear triply-bonded Mo2(OPr)6.

I returned to the UK at the end of 1981 to work with Prof. Don Bradley FRS at Queen Mary College London from January 1982. After developing some organoimido chemistry of Group 6 transition metals I transferred to a project involving chemical vapour deposition of III/V semiconductor materials. During this inroduction to materials chemistry I demonstrated the use of di-t-butyl phosphine as a source of P in the CVD of InP. Around this time I also became interested in polyoxometalates and the possibility of replacing some (or all) of the surface oxygens with organoimido groups, although this would have to wait until I began work at Newcastle University in 1984.

I was appointed to a lectureship at Newcastle University in 1984 and began a programme to investigate the non-aqueous synthesis and reactivity of early transition metal polyoxoanions (polyoxometalates). This resulted in the development of routes to organoimido-substituted hexamolybdates and of hydrolytic routes to various mixed-metal hexametalates having reactive alkoxide sites. The chemistry of these nanoscale molecular metal oxides is now generating a great deal of interest and our polyoxometalate work has now extended to amphiphilic derivatives, surface immobilised species, electron-rich polyoxometalates and fundamental aspects of electron- and proton-transfer processes. I was Chair of the European COST Action “Polyoxometalate Chemistry for Molecular Nanoscience” (PoCheMoN, 2012-2016) and I am currently PI and leader of the EPSRC-JSPS Core-to-Core International Network on Polyoxometalate Science for Advanced Functional Energy Materials (INPOMS, 2019-2024 and UK representative in the CNRS Polyoxometalate International Research Network (2019-2024).


BSc. Hons, PhD, CChem FRSC


Research Interests

Errington Group Research Page
My interests lie at the interface between molecular solution chemistry and the solid state chemistry of oxide materials. As a consequence, our work centres around a wide range of metal complexes in which the metal is bonded to oxygen donor ligands, particularly polyoxometalates and metal alkoxides and their derivatives.

Other Expertise

Design and synthesis of molecular precursors for materials applications.

Current Work

Synthesis and reactivity of functionalised and electron-rich polyoxometalates as nanoscale building blocks and functional components of molecular assemblies.


Undergraduate Teaching

In my time at Newcastle I have taught various aspects of Inorganic Chemistry to undergraduates at all stages including:

Transition metal chemistry

Organometallic chemistry

Applications of symmetry

Multinuclear NMR in structural chemistry

Catalyst Application and Design

Molecular Aspects of Materials Chemistry