Richard Puddephatt has conducted pioneering research on synthesis, reactivity and elucidation of mechanisms in the organometallic chemistry of the noble metals, particularly related to the role of organometallic compounds in catalysis and in materials science. He has elucidated the mechanisms of reactions which are fundamental in many homogenous catalytic processes, most notably in studies of oxidative addition and reductive elimination with alkylplatinum and alkyl–gold complexes and of skeletal rearrangements of metallacyclobutane complexes, often called the Puddephatt rearrangement.
Remarkable coordinatively unsaturated platinum clusters and platinum–rhenium clusters have been synthesised and shown to be excellent mimics of the surface reactivity, related to heterogeneous catalysis by supported platinum and bimetallic platinum–rhenium catalysts. New, commercially useful organometallic precursors for chemical vapour deposition (CVD) of thin films of metals such as palladium, platinum, silver and gold have been discovered and the fundamental mechanisms of those CVD processes elucidated. He has also synthesised catenanes and metal-containing polymers by dynamic ring opening polymerisation.