Robin Perutz conducts research in the fields of inorganic chemistry, photochemistry and catalysis in the Department of Chemistry of the University of York. Techniques devised by Robin have changed our views on the interactions of metals with small molecules. By providing understanding of chemical reactivities, they have enabled chemists to take a fresh approach to fundamental reactions and many industrial processes.
Using time-resolved spectroscopy, matrix isolation and product analysis, Robin showed that transition metals can bind to weak ligands such as alkanes and noble gases. He studied the photochemistry of metal hydrides and revealed pathways for carbon–hydrogen bond activation — a reaction in which the bond between carbon and hydrogen is cleaved and replaced by a bond to another type of atom.
Robin’s research on photochemistry contributes to the great potential of solar fuels, which convert solar energy to chemical energy, as an energy source of the future. He has received a number of awards for his work, including the 2005 Nyholm Prize for Inorganic Chemistry of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Robin’s PhD supervisor was James J Turner FRS and a contemporary in the Turner group was Martyn Poliakoff FRS. As the son of Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, Max Perutz FRS, Robin was brought up surrounded by science.
Robin has been very active in the women in science agenda since the early 2000s – York Chemistry became the first department to win the Athena SWAN gold status, an award for good practice on women’s equality. He is also very involved in supporting STEM students with disabilities. He has served on the Royal Society’s Diversity Committee, its Rosalind Franklin Award panel and the national Athena SWAN steering panel. Scientists fleeing conflict in former Yugoslavia, Iraq and, most recently, Syria have worked in his laboratory. Robin has been the Royal Society’s representative on the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies since 2013.
Interest and expertise
Chemistry, general, Chemistry, inorganic
Organometallic chemistry, Photochemistry, Inorganic chemistry, Solar fuels, spectroscopy, activation of small molecules