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My research and professional interests involve many aspects of inorganic and organometallic chemistry of the main group and lanthanoid elements, in particular organometallic and amido complexes. These complexes have relevance to such areas as catalysis, new materials and organic syntheses. There is a strong emphasis on synthetic methods and structural studies which involve a range of spectroscopic and structural techniques, in particular X-ray crystallography. Applied areas of research involve lanthanoid based corrosion inhibitors, rare earth imaging agents and synthesis of luminescent compounds. Much of this research involves collaborative links with colleagues both within and external to the department.


I have published in excess of 380 research publications in peer-reviewed internationally recognised journals, and in excess of 7500 citations and an h-index of 41. I have received in excess of $10M in research funding from the ARC and other external funding agencies. I have presented >80 invited lectures at other institutions, 27 invited keynote and plenary talks at conferences, and another 34 oral presentations at international conferences. My students have presented in excess of 200 posters and oral presentations at domestic and international conferences. I have graduated 27 PhD students and currently am supervising 10 PhD students across several institutions. I have graduated in excess of 40 Honours students and have had 11 postdoctoral fellows in my group, five who have gone onto their own independent academic careers.


The rare earth elements (Sc, Y, La and the lanthanoids Ce to Lu) are currently newsworthy,and have been described as the most important resource of the 21st century.Their ubiquity in contemporary life coupled with the impact of the Chinese near monopoly of supply, vividly illustrated by their cut in exports for 2011, and their ban on exports to Japan in 2010 ("The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earths", attributed to Deng Xiaoping), has highlighted their strategic importance to business leaders and politicians, as well as scientists. Australia has large rare earth reserves at Mt. Weld, Mt. Brockman, Nolans (Ln/U) in NT, Dubbo (zirconia/Ln) and in the Wimmera, Murray Basin, coastal mineral sands, WA Goldfields and U tailings, hence is well placed to provide a reliable source of supply. Indeed three mining companies, Lynas (Mt Weld), Arafura Resources (Nolans) and Alkane Resources (Dubbo), are well advanced towards production. Large scale uses include petroleum cracking catalysts, metallurgical reductants, light emitting chemicals in safety equipment and fluorescent tubes, decolourants and colouring agents in the glass industry, and particularly cerium oxide based supports for exhaust emission catalysts. Increasing use of rare earth alloy magnets in cars (joint magnet manufacturing is planned by Lynas/Siemens), particularly electric (hybrid) cars, and in green electricity generation has driven supply concerns with recycling now being considered. Their widespread use to promote crop production in China attests low toxicity. Clear benefits and no toxicity or environmental drawbacks have led to use in animal feed supplements in Switzerland (Lancer, Sanocer) and approval for use in the EU is being sought. Applications in organic synthesis are abundant, and rare earth metal-organic compounds are industrial catalysts for the production of artificial rubber where neodymium carboxylates and methylaluminium compounds are used. Rare earth chemistry underpins most of these applications and will form the basis of new industrial developments.


Rare earth metal-organic chemistry has been one of the groundbreaking research areas of the last 30 years and we have contributed enormously to this very topical area.


We are always interested in Honours and PhD students joining our group. To discuss opportunities, please contact me via the details on this page.




Post Doctorates





Current Students

Safaa Ali

Safaa Ali is a PhD student in the College of Science at James Cook University. He holds a scholarship from Iraqi government for doing his PhD study with Professor Peter Junk. Safaa has M. Sc. and B Sc. degrees from Thi-Qar University, Iraq. His research interests lie in the area of inorganic and organometallic chemistry of lanthanoid elements, in particular pseudo-Grignard reagents and biphenolate lanthanoid complexes. These complexes have relevance to such areas as catalysis and organic syntheses. There is a strong emphasis on structural studies which involve a range of structural techniques, in particular X-ray crystallography.

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College of Science & Engineering, Building 21, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld, 4811, AUSTRALIA