Dr Peter Portius

Peter Portius

Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
The University of Sheffield
Brook Hill
Sheffield S3 7HF
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 9385
Email: p.portius@sheffield.ac.uk


Biographical Sketch

Dr. Portius obtained a PhD in Chemistry from Humboldt University in Berlin in 2001, where he worked under the supervision of Prof. AC Filippou on the reactivity of germanium(II) compounds. After his PhD he became a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, where he also was a Humboldt Fellow and a Marie Curie Fellow. In 2005 he became a postdoctoral researcher and then research associate at the University of Bonn. In 2007 he was appointed as an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, where he was appointed lecturer in 2010.

Professional Qualifications & Memberships

  • MRSC
  • FHEA
  • Member of GDCh

Research Keywords

Main group element chemistry, high energy compounds, main group element - transition metal multiple bonds, time-resolved infrared spectroscopy.

Teaching Interests

Spectroscopic Characterisation


Our scientific interests are in the field of high energy compounds from preparation to understanding and controlling reactivity as well as in the area of practical applications. We want to understand the factors which govern their stability (with respect to thermal and mechanical shocks as well as to light) and energy release. Our current research pursues two main strands: (i) synthesis and characterisation of novel energetic coordination compounds and (ii) photochemistry of nitrogen-rich covalent compounds. The potential applications of our research range from chemical energy storage to pyrotechnics, explosives, and propellants.

Research Peter Portius 2

Energetic coordination compounds

Work in this area involves the exploration of preparative approaches toward new main-group element complexes bearing all-nitrogen or nitrogen-rich ligands. Specific systems we study are:

• polyazido complexes, such as [E(N3)6]- (E = P shown left)
• poly(tetrazolato) complexes
• polynitrato complexes

Research is directed towards the synthesis of new complexes and the study of their stability and reactivity and the derivation of structure-stability relationships.

Photochemistry and photophysics of nitrogen-rich covalent compounds

Research Peter Portius 1

Photochemical transformations of high-energy compounds are not understood well. They offer interesting opportunities into studying the mechanism of decomposition of such compounds. In particular, we are interested in the photophysics and photochemistry of nitrogen-rich compounds, which are studied using a combination of Laser excitation and time-resolved infrared spectroscopy (a typical TRIR spectrum shown right).


Apart from the excellent departmental instrumentation facilities for spectroscopy (NMR, IR, MS) and X-ray diffraction, which are vital for the characterisation of the nitrogen-rich materials, we also make regular use of a major national facitility for Laser spectroscopy in the UK, situated at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (Laser for Science Facility, LSF, http://www.clf.rl.ac.uk/).


Students and postdocs have the opportunity to engage in many aspects of our research, while developing greater expertise and interests in particular aspects of a specific project. Many projects involve the synthesis of organic or coordination compounds and energetic compounds, which sometimes will involve special techniques directed toward safe synthesis methods. Multinuclear NMR and IR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry are widely employed and extensive use is made of single crystal X-ray diffraction. Materials are often characterised by DSC and TGA methods. We use computational chemistry in order to support our understanding of thermal stability and predict properties of new energetic complexes. Collaborations are vital for our work and students have the opportunity to visit other research labs.


Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules

  • Chemistry and the World Around Us (Level 1): The chemistry of explosives.
    This module provides a basic overview of the chemistry of explosive compounds: their formulation, behaviour, properties and applications.
  • Characterisation using Spectroscopy (Level 2)
    This course introduces a variety of spectroscopic techniques which are used for the characterisation of molecules and complexes in inorganic chemistry, and shows how these methods can be used (on their own and in combination) to provide information about the structure of molecules and properties of inorganic compounds. In particular, mass spectrometry (EI, MALDI, ESI), UV/visible absorption spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy (31P, 19F, 11B, 109Rh etc.) and EPR spectroscopy (S = ½) are included and the concept of spectroscopic timescale is discussed.
  • Inorganic Materials (Level 3)
    The course provides an overview of synthesis, structures and properties of selected inorganic materials. A survey of different methods of synthesis of materials is provided. The structures and applications of zeolites and related silicate materials are presented. The preparation and applications of semiconductor materials are introduced.
  • Chemistry of High-Energy Materials (Level 4)
    Energetic materials science is at the heart of propellants, explosives and pyrotechnics. It provides the tools and concepts to determine and understand the structure and properties of energetic structures and their dynamic behaviour on timescales ranging from seconds to nanoseconds. This course will introduce the theory and application of energetic materials, their synthesis and characterisation, the current models describing their initiation and decomposition, and examples of applications.

Support Teaching:

  • Tutorials: Level 2 Inorganic Chemistry
  • Skills for Success: Database Project.
  • Level 3 Literature Review

Laboratory Teaching:

  • Level 3 Inorganic Laboratories
  • Level 3 Research Project
  • Level 4 Research Project



  • Portius P (2002) Untersuchungen über die Reaktivität von Verbindungen des Germaniums in der Oxidationsstufe +2, Germanium-Pseudohalogenide und Germylin-Komplexe. Berlin: Weissensee-Verlag. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • Portius P, James L, Peerless B, Smallwood Z & Crozier B (2017) Taming binary p-block azides with N-heterocyclic sigma-donors as precursors for the formation of nitrogen-rich tetrazolato complexes. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 254 View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Portius P, Crozier B, James L, Smallwood Z & Campbell R (2016) Nitrogen-rich complexes of p-block elements : highly endothermic polytetrazolates and polyazides. Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society, Vol. 252. Philadelphia, PA, USA, 21 August 2016 - 25 August 2016. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Weinstein JA, Sazanovich IV, Delor M, Scattergood PA, Meijer AJHM, Portius P, Greetham G, Parker AW & Towrie M (2013) Ultrafast photoinduced charge-separation in molecular systems: Time-resolved IR, transient 2DIR, and controlling the rates and the pathways by vibrational perturbation. ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 245 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Kuimova MK, Alsindi WZ, Dyer J, Grills DC, Jina OS, Matousek P, Parker AW, Portius P, Sun XZ, Towrie M , Wilson C et al (2003) Using picosecond and nanosecond time-resolved infrared spectroscopy for the investigation of excited states and reaction intermediates of inorganic systems. DALTON TRANSACTIONS(21) (pp 3996-4006) RIS download Bibtex download


  • Portius P & Filippou AC () Synthesis and use of silicon polyazides and nitrogen-containing azidosilicate salts as candidate energetic materials. 102 25 175.4 Appl. 01 Jan 1970. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Portius P, Davis M & Towrie M (2011) CCLRC Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Annual Report, Lasers for Science Facility Programme – Chemistry, 2010-2011 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Portius P, Yang J, Sun X-Z, Grills DC, George MW, Towrie M, Matousek P & Parker AW () CCLRC Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Annual Report, Lasers for Science Facility Programme - Chemistry, 2002-2003 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Portius P, Sun X-Z, Jina OS, Grills DC, George MW, Matousek P, Parker AW & Towrie M () CCLRC Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Annual Report, Lasers for Science Facility Programme - Chemistry, 2003-2004 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Portius P, Cowan A, Sun X-Z, George MW, Towrie M & Ronayne K () CCLRC Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Annual Report, Lasers for Science Facility Programme - Chemistry, 2004-2005 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Portius P, Weinstein JA, Davis M & Sazanovich IV () CCLRC Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Annual Report, Lasers for Science Facility Programme – Chemistry, 2009-2010 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Portius P & Towrie M () CCLRC Central Laser Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Annual Report, Lasers for Science Facility Programme – Chemistry RIS download Bibtex download