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Professor Polly L Arnold

Professor Polly L Arnold

Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry

Room 248

University of Edinburgh
Joseph Black Building
David Brewster Road

Research Interests

d- and f-block organometallic chemistry; small molecule activation chemistry; homogeneous catalysis

Research Overview

We are interested in making complexes that challenge our preconceived ideas about structure and bonding in early transition metal, and lanthanide and actinide chemistry. This involves the design of ligands to support complexes in unusual formal oxidation states or structural types, and the synthesis of new compounds that have the potential to engage in bonding or redox reactivities that would not be possible in more traditional systems.

We routinely test the reactivity of new complexes towards the activation of important small molecules including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, dinitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and alkenes and alkanes.  Many of the complexes we study also display reactivity as catalysts for organic transformations, such as carbon-carbon bond forming reactions, and the polymerisation of polar monomers such as rac-lactide, to make biodegradable polymers.

Organometallic f-block complexes

We are also involved in both local and international collaborations with other synthetic chemists in the study of some of the reaction chemistry, and with computational chemists to help understand the bonding in the more unusual systems.


  1. C-H Bond Activation by f-Block Complexes. P. L. Arnold, M. W. McMullon, J. Rieb, F. E. Kuhn, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 82-100
  2. New chemistry from an old reagent: Mono- and dinuclear macrocyclic uranium(III) complexes from U(BH4)3(THF)2. P. L. Arnold, C. J. Stevens, J. H. Farnaby, M. G. Gardiner, G. S. Nichol, J. B. Love JACS 2014, 136, 10218-10221.
  3. Thorium mono- and bis(imido) complexes made by reprotonation of cyclo-metalated amides. N. L. Bell, L. Maron, P. L. Arnold JACS 2015, 137, 10492-10495.
  4. Strongly coupled binuclear uranium-oxo complexes from uranyl oxo rearrangement and reductive silylation. P. L. Arnold, G. M. Jones, S. O. Odoh, G. Schreckenbach, N. Magnani, J. B. Love. Nature Chem. 2012, 4, 221-227.
  5. Spontaneous reduction and C-H borylation of arenes mediated by uranium(III) disproportionation.P. L. Arnold, S. M. Mansell, L. Maron, D. McKay. Nature Chem. 2012, 4, 668-674.
  6. Reduction and selective oxo group silylation of the uranyl dication. P. L. Arnold, D. Patel, C. Wilson, J. B. Love. Nature 2008, 451, 315-317.
  7. Small molecule activation by uranium tris(aryloxides): Experimental and computational studies of binding of N2, coupling of CO, and deoxygenation insertion of CO2 under ambient conditions. S. M. Mansell, N. Kaltsoyannis, P. L. Arnold. JACS 2011, 133, 9036-9051.