Professor Mike Beckett

Mike Beckett
Head of the School, Professor of inorganic chemistry
+44 (0)1248 388433
Chemistry Tower


Researcher ID profile

Professor Mike Beckett is Head of the School of Chemistry, and Director of Teaching for the College of Pure and Applied Sciences.  He is a Professor of inorganic chemistry and is researching materials chemistry in areas related main group (boron, silicon) chemistry.  He has published  >100 articles and has co-written a text book ('Periodic Table at a Glance', Wiley, 2006).  

He was appointed to a lectureship at Bangor University in 1989. Previously, he was a lecturer at Staffordshire University, and before that he held post-doctoral research positions at Exeter University (with Prof E.W. Abel), QMC, London (with Prof B. Aylett) and Leeds University (with Prof N.N. Greenwood and Prof J.D. Kennedy).

He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, FHEA, and a Fellow of the RSC, CChem FRSC. He was trained as a QAA specialist subject reviewer (Chemistry) in 2003. He was appointed to the RSC Committee for Accreditation and Validation (CAV) for 2005-11 (Vice-chair 2010-11) and he has been the Chairman of the North Wales local RSC section. He has also been a member of the RSC Membership and Qualification Board (2012-14) and is a Titular member of the Nomenclature Committee (IUPAC). He is currently leading an IUPAC funded task group on nomenclature of boron hydride systems and is serving on the international advisory committees of the International conference on boron chemistry (Imeboron) and the European conference on boron chemistry (Euroboron).


Current  PhD/MSc students

  • Tom Rixon (PhD first year student) "Optimizing new bio-stimulants silicate formulations for agricultural use".
  • Mohammed Alyami (PhD first year student, joint with Dr. Vera Thoss), “Sand, hydrocarbons and surfactants”.

Previous PhD students:

  • Mohammed A Altahan - PhD 2016, "Cobalt(III), Copper(II) and Nickel(II) Coordination Compounds as Cations in Polyborate Chemistry".
  • Charlotte Jones - PhD 2016, "Synthesis, structures and thermal properties of non-metal cation polyborates".
  • Mohammed H. Alqahtani – PhD 2015, "Forensic analysis of fire accelerants in borate treated timber".
  • Susan A. Barnes - PhD 2012 (joint with Prof G.J. Ashwell), "Self-assembly of molecular wires on solid supports".
  • Aled T. Williams - PhD 2012 (joint with Prof G.J. Ashwell), "Functional Molecular Wires".
  • James L. Timmis - PhD 2011, "Characterization of non-metal cation polyborate salts and silicate solutions”.
  • Catherine C. Bland - PhD 2007, NMR studies of borate and silicate systems involving Na/TAA cations”.
  • Sian E. Masson - PhD 2007, “The detection of VOC's using sensors based on nanostrctured metal oxides".
  • Ben Steifvater-Thomas - PhD, 2005, “Customized TAA cations as counter-ions in silicates and related systems”.
  • Martin Rugen-Hankey - PhD 2002, “New reactions relating to Lewis acid properties of borate esters”.
  • Dave Brassington - PhD 2001, “Synthesis and characterization of organometallic compounds of B, Mn, and Re”.
  • Paul Owen - PhD 1998, “Synthesis and properties of borate esters with B-O-MR3 (M = Si or Sn) links”.
  • Gary Strickland - PhD 1996,”Epoxide polymerizations initiated by metaborate esters”.
  • Paul Minton - PhD 1996, “A study of B-S heterocycles and some related chemistry”.

Previous MSc students:

  • Mohammed Z. Alshehri ( 2017)
  • Haruna Ibrahim (MSc 2015)
  • Qi Yan (MSc 2014)
  • Mark Hayter (MSc 2014)
  • Cathrine Kiely (MSc, 2013)
  • Bashdar I. Meena (MSc, 2013)
  • Ryan Wyn-Thomas (MSc, 2010)
  • Sarah Chappell (MSc, 2010)
  • Owen Pleasance (2007)
  • Sali Roberts (2003)
  • Ben Stiefvater-Thomas (2002)
  • Kelvin Weeks (1998)
  • Phil Jones (1995)
  • Rob Gilmore (1992)
  • Rob Pullar (1992)
  • Lisa Severs (1990)


My research interests are centred on the synthesis, structure, and applications of:

  • Lewis acidity and organoborates/organosilicates
  • Polyborate systems
  • Main group and transition-metal co-ordination/organometallic compounds.

Laboratory work for organometallic chemistry uses standard techniques for manipulation of oxygen-sensitive and water-sensitive materials (Schlenk lines, dry-box) and molecular species are routinely characterised by elemental analysis, mass spectrometry, and spectroscopic (multi-element NMR, IR) techniques. Borate/silicate research is usually undertaken in aqueous solvents in air. Solid state materials are studied by MAS NMR spectroscopy and by single-crystal XRD, powder XRD, TGSA/DSC and BET analysis.

Potential applications additives for fire-retardant materials, new polymeric materials, and molecular precursors to porous materials for use as H2 storage materials.

Specific areas of current interest are described in more detail below: -

Transition-metal complexes as cations in polyborate chemistry

The synthesis and characterization of polyborate salts containing cationic transition-metal complexes is being investigated.  Transition-metal coordination compounds as cations have been chosen because of their steric bulk, high charge, and their abilty to form many H-bonds donor interactions with groups in their second coordination shell.  The aim of this work is to investigate their structure directing effects and to engineer novel polyborate anions.

Borates and silicates as Agricultural biostimulants

Boron and/or silicon can act as biostimulants in agriculture crops. The boron and/or silicon has to be bioavailable and methods using plant extracts etc in the formulation of agricultural feeds, to enhance bioavailablity, is being investigated.

Lewis acidity measurement

Organoborates are being studied as potential Lewis acid catalysts, and 31P NMR spectroscopy is being used to measure the Lewis acidity of the organoborate species. This technique uses Et3PO as a probe molecule, and reports Gutmann's AN numbers. The method is known as the Gutmann-Beckett method for Lewis acidity measurement.

Porous materials from NMC pentaborates

The synthesis and characterization of a series of organic cation (i.e non-metal cation, NMC) containing ionic borate species is being investigated with the aim of exploring their solid-state structures and investigating structure directing effects through cation-anion interactions. The synthesis and characterization of supramolecular pentaborate materials with well-defined channels and pores are being explored, as potential sorbents, catalysts, ion exchangers, and materials for H2 storage.

Zwitterionic and cationic borate/hydroxyborate anions

Borate anions are found in nature combined with various metal cations as minerals with in a fantastic diversity of solid-state borate anion structures. Condensation of hydroxyl ammonium cations with borate to form zwitterionic (or even cationic) species and the structure directing are being examined.

11B NMR analysis of borates in non-aqueous solution

11B NMR spectra of aqueous polyborates are complex and difficult to interpret with regards exact speciation present. Non-aqueous solutions of NMC polyborates and alkali-metal (with the use of crown ethers) tetraborates in non-aqueous solution are being prepared, and their spectra are being analysed by 11B NMR spectroscopy. This should help to explain and understand spectra obtained of polyborates in aqueous solutions.

Computational studies

The structures of isolated polyborate anions are being investigated in the gas-phase by DFT calculations and QTAIM analysis.  This is being extended to condensed phases with work on solvation and solid-state H-bonding interactions. This is a collaborative project with Dr R.A. Davies.

Environmental analysis

An ongoing research project has been to measure boron concentrations in the local freshwater and marine environment - data is now available over the previous 10 years, with concentrations constant.


There is a well-developed link with Pilkington’s European Technical Centre, Lathom, UK. The link is with the building products fire-glazing section, and collaborative research has investigated potential new coating and interlayer materials for fire-resistant laminated glass applications. Informal discussions and collaborations concerning borate research have been made with Rio-Tinto Minerals (Borax, USA), Johnson Matthey (UK), and Dow Corning (UK).  An ongoing academic link has been made with Prof B. Karan at Hacettepe University (Chemistry Department) Ankara, Turkey, which has resulted in a Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Council funded post-doctoral fellowship to the UK.

3 Highly Cited Publications

Lewis acidity of tris(pentafluorophenyl)borane: crystal and molecular structure of B(C6F5)3.OPEt3, M.A. Beckett, D.S. Brassington, S.J. Coles, and M.B. Hursthouse, Inorg. Chem. Commun., 2000, 3, 530-533. [84 citations].

A convenient NMR method for the measurement of Lewis acidity at boron centres: correlation of reaction rates of Lewis acid initiated epoxide polymerizations with Lewis acidity, M.A. Beckett, G.C. Strickland, J.R. Holland, and K.S. Varma, Polymer, 1996, 37, 4629-4631. [80 citations].

Amine adducts of triarylboroxines: synthesis and characterization of adducts of tri(2-tolyl)boroxine and crystal structures of (4-MeC6H4)3B3O3 and (4-MeC6H4)3B3O3.4-picoline, M.A. Beckett, G.C. Strickland, K.S. Varma, D.E. Hibbs, M.K.A. Malik, and M.B. Hursthouse, J. Organomet. Chem., 1997, 535, 33-41. [57 citations].

Citation data Web of Knowledge, 3rd November 2017.

Recent Publications

Transition-metal complexes with oxidoborates. Synthesis and XRD characterization of [(H3NCH2CH2NH2)Zn{k3O,O′,O′′-B12O18(OH)6-k1O′′′}}Zn(en)(NH2CH2CH2NH3)] (en = 1,2-diaminoethane): a neutral bimetallic zwitterionic polyborate system containing the ‘isolated’ dodecaborate(6-) anion, M.A. Altahan, M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles and P.N. Horton, Pure and Applied Chemistry, 2018, in press. doi: 10.1515/pac-2017-0901.

Polyborate anions partnered with large non-metal cations: tribotate(1-), pentaborate(1-) and heptaborate(2-) salts, M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles, P.N. Horton and C.L. Jones, Eur. J. Inorg. Chem., 2017, 4510-4518, [Designated VIP -Very Important Paper].

Synthesis and characterization of polyborates templated by cationic copper(II) complexes: structural (XRD), spectroscopic, thermal (TGA/DSC) and magnetic properties, M.A. Altahan, M.A. Beckett, S,J. Coles and P.N. Horton, Polyhedron, 2017,135, 247-257.

Synthesis, XRD studies and NLO properties of [p-H2NC6H4CH2NH3][B5O6(OH)4]. 1/2H2O and NLO properties of some related pentaborate(1-) salts,  M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles, P.N. Horton, C.L. Jones and K. Krueger,  J. Clust. Sci., 2017, 28, 2087-2095.

Recent advances in crystalline hydrated polyborates with non-metal or transition-metal complex cations, M.A. Beckett, Coord. Chem. Rev., 2016, 323, 2-14. (Invited Review for special edition on Boron chemistry).

Polyborate anions templated by cationic transition-metal complexes: [Co(diNOsar)2][B3O3(OH)4]Cl5.4.75H2O, M.A. Altahan, M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles, and P.N. Horton, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Silicon, 2016, 191, 572-575.

DFT studies on hexaborate(2-) and heptaborate(2-) anions,  R.A. Davies, M.A. Beckett, and C.L. Jones, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Silicon, 2016, 191, 633-637.

Synthesis and characterization of templated pentaborate(1-) salts: X-ray structure of [(2-HOCH2 CH2)C4H7NMeH][B5O6(OH)4].0.3H2O, C.L. Jones, M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles, and P.N. Horton, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Silicon, 2016, 191, 628-630.

A new polyborate anion, [B7O9(OH)6]3-: self assembly, XRD and thermal properties  of  s-fac-[Co(dien)2][B7O9(OH)6].9H2O, M.A. Altahan, M.A. Beckett, S. J. Coles, and  P.N. Horton, Inorg. Chem Commun., 2015, 59, 95-98.

K(I)-M(II) (M = Co, Mn) heterometallic-(perfluorinated)organic frameworks containing rare inorganic layered K-O-M linkages: synthesis, crystal structures and magnetic properties, Q. Yan, X-C. Huang, J. Zhong, J. Gao, S.-C. Chen, M.-Y. He, Q. Chen, and M.A. Beckett, J. Coord. Chem. 2015, 68, 2691-2702.

Pentaborate(1-) salts templated by substituted pyrrolidinium cations: synthesis, structural characterization, and modelling of solid-state H-bond interactions by DFT calculations, M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles, R.A. Davies, P.N. Horton and C. L. Jones, Dalton Trans, 2015, 44, 7032-7040. doi. 10.1039/c5dt00248f. (Open Access).

A new decaoxidooctaborate(2-)anion, [B8O10(OH)6]2-: synthesis and characterization of [Co(en)3][B5O6(OH)4][B8O10(OH)6].5H2O (en = 1,2-diaminoethane), M.A. Altahan, M.A. Beckett, S.J. Coles and P.N. Horton, Inorg Chem., 2015, 54, 412-414, doi:10.1021/ic5027834.

Computational studies on polyborate anions, M.A. Beckett, R.A. Davies, C.D. Thomas, Comp. and Theoretical Chem, 2014, 1044, 74-79.

Synthesis and structural studies of pentaborate(1-) salts containing substituted imadazolium cations, M.A. Beckett, P.N. Horton, M.B. Hursthouse, and J.L. Timmis, Polyhedron, 2014, 77, 96-102 .

Organic biomolecules bind to phosphate through borate linkages in aqueous solution: a possible role of boron as a phosphorylation chaperone in the prebiotic world, B. Zumreoglu-Karen, D.A. Kose, N. Aydogmus and M.A. Beckett, Turkish Journal of Chemistry, 2014, 38, 617-628.

Triborate and pentaborate salts of non-metal cations derived from N-substituted piperazines: synthesis, structural (XRD) and thermal properties, M. A. Beckett, P.N. Horton, M. B. Hursthouse,and J. L. Timmis, RSC Advances, 2013, 3, 15185-15191 , DOI 10.1039/C3RA42387E. (Open Access)

Compounds with boron-chalcogen B –E bonds (E = S, Se, Te), M.A. Beckett, in ‘Handbook of Chalcogen Chemistry: New perspectives in Sulfur, Selenium, and Tellurium - Vol 1', Ed. F. Devillanova and W.-W. Du Mont, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, 2013, Chapter 1, ISBN 978-1-84973-622-0.