Professor Richard Wells

Professor Richard Wells
BSc (B'ham), MSc (Liv), PhD (Dundee)

Vice-Principal (International Partnerships)

Professor Richard Wells
Professor Richard Wells

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 273021
The University of Aberdeen Meston Room 0.41

Memberships and Affiliations


Professor Wells is the Director of Teaching & Learning for the College of Physical Sciences.


Prof Wells is the Honorary Secretary of the Aberdeen and Northern Scotland RSC Local Section together with the Surface Reactivity and Catalysis Interest Group.


Research Overview

Catalytic Chemistry and Solid State Spectroscopy

Our main research interests involve the use of spectroscopic techniques, particularly solid state NMR, FTIR and laser Raman to study  powdered materials, and in particular those which exhibit catalytic activity. The development of spectroscopic techniques using fibre-optic technology to enable the study of catalytic systems during reaction is  of particular interest. An example of such work is the use of laser Raman spectroscopy to study the complex Vanadium-Phosphorus-Oxide catalyst system, used industrially to promote the partial oxidation of butane to maleic anhydride. The use of a combination of spectroscopic techniques can lead to a detailed understanding of the mechanism of catalytic reactions at the molecular level, thereby enabling improvements to be made in their synthesis and to the reaction and regeneration conditions, all important aspects in the life cycle of a catalyst.  This detailed knowledge is exemplified when the reaction is enantioselective, such reactions are of increasing importance to the fine chemicals industry where chirality plays an important role, for example in the pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals industries, providing an exciting challenge to develop suitable heterogeneous catalysts. Work in this area to date has included both liquid and gas phase enantioselective reactions and we aim to further develop this work, particularly over oxidic materials.


Solid State NMR

The use of solid state NMR has become increasingly widespread in recent years enabling a significant move forward in our understanding of solid materials in general. The department of Chemistry has recently installed a Varian Infinity Plus 400 MHz instrument capable of high speed magic angle spinning and wideline capabilities over an extended range of frequencies. This will be used by many groups within the University, projects already under discussion include studies of novel micro- and mesoporous materials, the hydration and composition of concretes and bone degradation amongst many others.


Current Research

Current research revolves around heterogeneous catalysis. The three main strands of research are concerned with hydrogenation, acid-base catalysts and environmental catalysis.

Research Funding and Grants

Work is currently supported via a variety of sources including EPSRC, BBSRC and industry.


Teaching Responsibilities

Prof Wells teaches in the following courses:

  • CM4017/CM4024 Honours/Advanced Chemistry
  • CM5019:  Renewables Chemistry
  • CM5515:  Oil and Gas Chemistry


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  • Impact of dendrimer density on epoxide enantioselectivity over an immobilised chiral salen complex

    McCue, A. J., Urgast, D. S., Wells, R. P. K., Anderson, J. A.

    Catalysis Communications, vol. 43, pp. 159-163

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Gold modified cobalt-based Fischer-Tropsch catalysts for conversion of synthesis gas to liquid fuels

    McCue, A. J., Aponaviciute, J., Wells, R. P. K., Anderson, J. A.

    Frontiers of Chemical Science and Engineering, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 262-269

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Hydroconversion of n-alkanes over carbided Rh/molybdena zirconia catalysts

    Galadima, A., Wells, R. K. P., Anderson, J. A.

    Topics in Catalysis, vol. 55, no. 14-15, pp. 931-939

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Selective hydrogenation of acetylene in ethylene rich feed streams at high pressure over ligand modified Pd/TiO2

    McKenna, F. M., Mantarosie, L., Wells, R. P. K., Hardacre, C., Anderson, J. A.

    Catalysis Science & Technology, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 632-638

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Confirmation of chirality in homogeneous and heterogeneous salen-based catalysts

    McCue, A. J., Wells, R. P. K., Anderson, J. A.

    ChemCatChem, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 699-703

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Enhanced selectivity in acetylene hydrogenation by ligand modified Pd/TiO2 catalysts

    McKenna, F., Wells, R. P. K., Anderson, J. A.

    Chemical Communications, vol. 47, no. 8, pp. 2351-2353

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Aqueous phase hydrogenation of substituted phenyls over carbon nanofibre and activated carbon supported Pd

    Anderson, J. A., Athawale, A., Imrie, F. E., McKenna, F. M., McCue, A., Molyneux, D., Power, K., Shand, M., Wells, R. P. K.

    Journal of Catalysis, vol. 270, no. 1, pp. 9-15

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Quantitative determination of acid sites on silica-alumina

    Stefanowicz-Pieta, I. A., Ishaq, M., Wells, R., Anderson, J.

    Applied Catalysis A: General, vol. 390, no. 1-2, pp. 127-134

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • A visible light driven photoelectrocatalytic fuel cell for clean-up of contaminated water supplies

    MacPhee, D. E., Wells, R., Kruth, A., Todd, M. J., Elmorsi, T., Smith, C., Pokrajac, D., Strachan, N., Mwinyhija, M., Scott-Emuakpor, E., Nissen, S., Killham, K.

    Desalination, vol. 248, no. 1-3, pp. 132-137

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

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