Research Fellows Directory
Dr Kevin Lovelock
University of Oxford
Chemical reactions are vital to our everyday life. In particular, acid-base reactions in liquids are ubiquitous, and there are many fascinating and important examples. Basic oxygen reacting with acidic haemoglobin allows us to breath and acid catalysts are crucial to chemical processes for making essential materials, including plastics such as synthetic rubber. There is an ever-present need to better understand and predict these acid-base reactions. Superior understanding can be achieved by creating simple but accurate models of reactions. However, reactions are incredibly complicated, meaning we do not yet have a good enough model for acid-base reactions.
Electrons are the glue that forms bonds between atoms in molecules. An acid-base reaction occurs when electrons are donated from the base to the acid. Therefore, knowing both where the electrons are in the base and where the electrons can go to in the acid is vital to understand how acids and bases will react.
In my research I perform spectroscopy experiments for acids and bases in liquids to determine electron location. My probe is light in the form of X-rays, and I detect either light or electrons given off by the acids and bases during the experiments. I make measurements at synchrotrons such as Diamond Light Source. Synchrotrons produce light that is much brighter than can be produced in university laboratories, allowing world-class experiments to be readily performed.
My results will allow me to develop better models of reactions between acids and bases. This understanding will provide chemists with levers to design and control reactivity. For example, by synthesising plastics more efficiently, costs would be reduced and there would be less environmental damage. In addition, understanding the catalytic processes involved in biomass deconstruction would allow us to make valuable chemicals from non-edible parts of plants, reducing the need for fossil fuels.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)