Annual Caress Lecture: Dr. Polly L. Arnold

F-Block Dinitrogen Chemistry, From Rarity to Catalysis in a Few Simple Steps
Mon, 24 October, 2022 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Image of Dr. Arnold in her lab

Dr. Polly L. Arnold, Professor of Chemistry, Chemical Sciences Division Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Caress Lecture Award Recipient

The GW Department of Chemistry is pleased to present our annual Caress Lecture featuring Dr. Polly L. Arnold.

Chemists have spent more than a century trying to make catalysts that can convert atmospheric dinitrogen (N2) to ammonia (NH­3), or directly to amines (NR3) under mild conditions. Hundreds of complexes based on metals from the d-block are now known to bind N2, and a few catalysts for N2 conversion to ammonia or tris(silyl)amine have been developed.

However, the picture for the metals at the bottom of the periodic table, the f-block, many of which have been deemed ‘critical elements’ for technology, is completely different. The binding of dinitrogen to any f-block metal cation was considered impossible until the turn of the millennium, but a small yet growing number of weakly-bound N2 complexes are now being reported. Studies of these weak binding interactions contributes to the fundamental understanding of bonding and electronic structure in these large, and energy-relevant elements.

We will show what we have learned about N2 binding to f-block centers over the last decade, and our recent development of the first molecular f-block complexes that can catalyze the reduction and functionalization of dinitrogen. We will also discuss how structural control by the molecular framework can enable the first catalytic conversion of dinitrogen into a secondary silylamine by any metal.

Location: SEH B1220. Please note that this is an in-person and online special presentation. Reception will follow.

About the Speaker

[email protected]

  • Professor of Chemistry, UC Berkeley, 2020 to Present
  • Reader then Professor then Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Lecturer then Reader in Chemistry, University of Nottingham, UK, 1999-2007
  • Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, US (Prof. Christopher C. Cummins, advisor), 1997-1999
  • D. Phil. Chemistry, University of Sussex (Prof. F. Geoffrey N. Cloke, advisor), 1997
  • MA Chemistry, University of Oxford, UK, 1994
  • Dr. Arnold's web page

The Caress Lecture Series

The Caress lecture series was established by Drs. Ed and Virginia Caress and is designed to feature leaders in their fields who have made substantive contributions to any area of chemistry as determined by a committee of the faculty.


Non-GW attendees, please follow GW Covid 19 protocol. If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

Zoom Link if you plan on attending virtually.

Science & Engineering Hall 800 22nd Street, NW Washington DC 20052
Room: SEH B1220

Chemistry Department
[email protected]
(202) 994-6121

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