They’ve made 500 compounds, and plan to make 500 more…
05 Dec 2019
- Rosalind Davies



This week, the ISIS deuteration facility celebrated the measurement on WISH of a sample made using the 500th compound synthesised in the lab.


​​​​The ISIS Deuteration Facility


Because of the strong interaction between neutrons and hydrogen, it is often useful for samples to be prepared using heavy hydrogen (deuterium) instead. Compounds requested by the users for their experiments were synthesized by a team of two post-doctoral researchers in a lab based at the University of Oxford.

In 2013, the decision was made to move the lab 'in house' to ISIS. The original primary demand before the Facility moved to ISIS was from the Small Angle Scattering and Reflectometry beamlines but there have been increasing numbers of requests for organic synthesis and ionic liquids. Over the years, the lab has seen requests ranging from the weird to the wonderful, and everything in between! Some compounds are very routine and take a few hours to make, whereas others can take months, or even years.

​A recent type of request has been for deuterated ligands to make Molecular Organic Frameworks (MOFs): porous structures than can be used for gas storage, catalysis but also exhibit unconventional physical phenomena such as superconductivity. The 500th compound was an example of one of these materials; 1,2-bis(4pyridyl)ethane and 1,2-bis(4-pyridyl)ethylene ligands (right) were sent to the University of Liverpool where PhD student Kate Tustain used it to ma​​​ke the MOF material for her magnetic investigations on WISH. 

Kate is pictured below with colleagues from the University of Liverpool, WISH instrument scientists, and staff from the Deuteration Facility.

19EC4063 10,000th Experimental Risk Assessment.jpg

The requests for deuterated materials come in as part of the proposal system, and the​n the facility has its own Facility Access Panel (FAP) to assess them. The group have to judge carefully whether they think the material can be made in time for a particular cycle, and inform the instrument scientist who is scheduling the experiments. They need to know they will be able to make the compound on a timescale and at a yield that is realistic. 

The group has grown from the two post-doctoral researchers who moved from Oxford to four full time members of staff, a graduate and a sandwich student, as well as taking on summer students for 6-8 week-long placements every year. In addition to the complex requests for compounds such as ionic liquids, and electrolytes for battery materials, the team is also looking at different synthesis routes they could use to make the 'day to day' deuterated compounds. 

​To find out more about the Deuteration Facility, and to request deuterated samples, please visit their webpage

Contact: de Laune, Rosie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)