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The University of Southampton
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Dr Peter P Wells MChem, PhD

Associate Professor

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Peter Wells is Associate Professor within Chemistry at the University of Southampton and holds a joint appointment with the UK national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source.

Using intense beams of light, provided by synchrotron radiation sources, we are able to understand the complex properties of catalysts, fundamental to the chemical industry and a sustainable future.

Peter Wells joined the University of Southampton in August 2016 as Lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry, a joint appointment with Diamond Light Source, and was promoted to Associate Professor in March 2019. Before for taking up this role, Peter worked for University College London, and was based full time at the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) establishing a new national catalysis initiative, the EPSRC UK Catalysis Hub. Prior to this, Peter obtained a MChem in Chemistry (University of Surrey, 2003), a PhD in the preparation and characterisation of tailored metal nanoparticles, (University of Southampton, 2007), and was Senior Research Fellow, working for Professor John Evans (University of Southampton, 2007-2011).

Peter’s research focuses on the development of operando spectroscopic methods and controlled catalyst preparation, both essential tools in understanding the complex properties of catalysts. These studies make extensive use of synchrotron radiation facilities, both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, and strong collaboration with the UK Catalysis Hub. His experience is synchrotron radiation studies is recognised in the field and currently serves on the peer-review-panels of both Diamond Light Source and the Swiss Light Source.

Peter is an associate member of the EPSRC college and was recently appointed as a member of the EPSRC National Research Facilities High Level Advisory Group. To date, Peter’s research has resulted in > 80 peer reviewed publications and is a named investigator (PI and CoI) on grants, both historic and ongoing, with a combined value > £13M.

Peter’s experience as an educator was recently recognised by becoming a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

Research interests

A major theme of Peter’s research is the development and application of in situ and operando methods to the study of catalysis. Catalysts, by nature, are exceedingly dynamic and although unconsumed by the process of catalysis they adapt to the evolving chemical environment. Peter uses advanced X-ray based techniques, e.g. X-ray absorption spectroscopy, to follow these structural changes and relate them to how catalysts function effectively. Furthermore, the group have a keen interest in understanding the chemical steps involved within catalyst preparation – be it impregnation, sol‑immobilisation, or mechanochemical methods - and how these also contribute to catalyst performance.

Such changes are commonly place for supported metal nanoparticles, and this is another significant topic of research. The group design and prepare tailored nanoparticle catalysts with customised properties for a range of catalytic processes – from the production of sustainable platform chemicals using waste biomass to the remediation of environmental pollutants.

Combining these topics, Peter is interested in learning how specific structural changes that traditionally occur during catalysis, e.g. the formation of nitride and carbidic Pd nanoparticles (EPSRC, EP/V000691/1, £1.26M, PI – P. Wells), can be stabilised and harnessed for new catalyst technologies.

Research group

Functional Inorganic, Materials and Supramolecular Chemistry

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Key Publications



Lecturer CHEM3037 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry

Dr Peter P Wells
Chemistry University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 30/4036

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