University of Nottingham
Alexander Blake received his BSc and PhD degrees in Chemistry from Aberdeen University. He moved to the Chemistry Department at the University of Edinburgh in 1982 to study low-melting compounds by X-ray diffraction, and from 1985 worked for the Department's Crystal Structure Service, greatly expanding its scope and productivity. In 1995 he moved to the School of Chemistry of the University of Nottingham where he established a Crystal Structure Facility. He was Scientific Director of the EPSRC/British Crystallographic Association Intensive School on X-ray Structural Analysis from 1999 to 2009, and is an author of two books based on the School. In 2007 he was promoted to a Chair in Chemical Crystallography in Nottingham and was elected Vice-President of the British Crystallographic Association. In 2012 he was appointed Adjunct Professor at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, and as Main Editor of Acta Crystallographica, Section B. He was Chair of the 28th European Crystallographic Meeting (ECM28) which attracted over 850 delegates to the UK in August 2013.
We are interested in what happens to metal complexes when they are subjected to high pressures of up to 100,000 atmospheres. The phenomena we have found so far include polymerisation to form chains and sheets, strong (sometime multiple) colour changes and new molecular shapes. The reasons for these changes are not always obvious, so we carry out theoretical calculations to help us understand them. We are also using pressure to look at what happens to organic molecules inside the channels of porous metal-organic frameworks. These frameworks are promising candidates for the efficient storage of gases like hydrogen, which can be used as clean fuel sources for cars. Understanding how molecules interact with the inner surfaces of the pores will help us to design more efficient containers. This work is mostly carried out in a dedicated high pressure X-ray crystallography laboratory in the School of Chemistry, but also at Diamond Light Source.