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Professor Sally Brooker

Professor Sally Brooker

Principal Investigator

Towards Zero Carbon - Catalytic Architectures

Phone:
+64 3 479 7919

Address:
Department of Chemistry
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054

Biography

Sally did her PhD with Dr Vickie McKee at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand (Vickie is now a Visiting Research Professor in Syddansk Universitet, Odense, Denmark and Adjunct Professor in Dublin City University, Ireland), and a postdoc with Professor George Sheldrick (of SHELX fame) at Göttingen University in Germany. She then returned to NZ to take up a lectureship at the University of Otago, the first position she applied for, where she is now a full professor and currently one of 7 inaugural Sesquicentennial Distinguished Professors (2020-2024). Sally is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of New Zealand and New Zealand Institute of Chemistry and in 2018 was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science, MNZM. Other recent awards include: Francis Lions Memorial Lecturer (Sydney University, 2018), RSNZ Hector Medal for outstanding work in chemical, physical or mathematical and information sciences (2017), 28th Inorganic Chemistry Award of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), the Burrows Award (2017), and the University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal (2017), and the inaugural triennial Curtis Lecture (Victoria University Wellington, 2015). She loves supervising her large, multinational, highly productive and high impact research team (over 210 papers to date, h = 47 Web of Science, PhD 1989), Brookers Bunch.

Sally and her research group have prepared and characterised some key dinuclear spin crossover systems, including the first dicobalt complex to undergo simultaneous magnetic exchange and spin crossover, and the first structurally characterised dimetallic complex in which one metal ion is high spin whilst the other is low spin, and, in collaboration with Professor Jeff Tallon (RRI), the first triply switchable cobalt complex.

In collaboration with Professor Annie Powell (Karlsruhe) and Dr Rodolphe Clerac (Bordeaux), larger clusters of metal ions are also being targeted and magnetically characterised, consistent with another aim, the preparation of soluble single molecule/chain magnets (SMMs/SCMs): they reported the first SMMs to be designed and made in NZ. They are also taking steps towards immobilising switchable complexes on solid supports.

Sally is currently leading a German-NZ Green Hydrogen alliance, between team NZ green H2 and Helmholz Zentrum Hereon (HZH, Hamburg, Germany). This initiative aims to generate multiple research and industry links between Germany and NZ, to establish a physical presence in the form of a German-NZ green hydrogen research centre at the University of Otago, and to encourage development of a Southern Innovation campus and economic benefits to NZ.  

Research interests

We remain very active in the design of new spin crossover systems, including new classes of ligands that support spin crossover active dinuclear helicates and tetranuclear cages, as these have potential as sensors.

In addition, over recent years we have increasingly focussed on testing our designer complexes as catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and carbon dioxide reduction reaction (CO2RR). 

Initially we focused on photocatalytic HER, working in collaboration with Professor Garry Hanan (Montreal) for testing, supported by a Catalyst Seed Grant. Based on the promising initial results obtained, we also collaborated with Professor Jadranka Travas-Sejdic (Auckland), successfully covalently immobilising some of our catalysts onto a solid support (via click onto PEDOT polymer immobilised on ITO).  

More recently we have developed in house electrocatalytic HER testing capabilities at Otago.

We have also worked closely with Associate Professor Aaron Marshall (Canterbury) to develop an electrocatalytic CO2RR testing system in his lab, revising his existing heterogeneous testing systems to produce a system suitable for homogeneous CO2RR testing of molecular catalysts. The focus now is on testing more of our designer complexes using this system.

If we get it right, industry will certainly stand up and take notice.

Professor Sally Brooker
Professor Sally Brooker

In the news

Annual Report

Internationally connected

March 31, 2021

Nicola Gaston and Sally Brooker were invited to join a German Academic Exchange Service-funded delegation to Germany..

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Annual Report

Journal covers

August 20, 2020

This page lists the various scientific journal covers that featured MacDiarmid Institute Investigators work in 2019.

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Annual Report

Materials science in the new energy sector

June 11, 2020

In May, the Government hosted the Just Transition summit in Taranaki on preparing for a low emissions economy,

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Annual Report

Awards - Annual Report 2019

May 26, 2020

This article from our 2019 Annual Report provides information about the range of awards received by MacDiarmid Institute Investigators over the past year.

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Annual Report

Fuelling NZ’s future with smart catalysts - Annual Report 2019

March 8, 2020

Professor Sally Brooker is leading a new collaboration combining chemistry and engineering to help fuel NZ's future.

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In The Media

Not-so-modest proposals for Tiwai

December 10, 2019

An ambitious solution would keep jobs in Southland and deliver on the promise of the Zero Carbon Act.

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Annual Report

Connecting with researchers at UCLA - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

The discovery of conducting polymers – plastics that conduct electricity – won New Zealander Alan MacDiarmid the Nobel Prize in 2000.

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Annual Report

2018 funding successes - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

Funding successes for our investigators and their research programmes during 2018. This funding enables our researchers and collaborators to continue their breakthrough research in advanced materials and nanotechnology.

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Annual Report

Journal covers - Annual Report 2018

April 8, 2019

This page lists the various scientific journal covers that featured MacDiarmid Institute Investigators work in 2018.

Read more about Journal covers - Annual Report 2018

News Article

MacDiarmid researchers celebrate 40 years of Germany/NZ science co-operation with German President Steinmeier

January 25, 2018

Professor Sally Brooker and Dr Renee Goreham celebrate science collaborations with German President Steinmeier and his wife Elke Büdenbender.

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Interface Magazine

Nick White: Inspiring alumnus

July 10, 2015

MacDiarmid Institute alumnus, Dr Nick White was born in the UK, but grew up in New Zealand and completed his BSc (Hons) at the University of Otago, and PhD at the University of Oxford. He sat down with Kate Hannah to discuss his science, and what has inspired him throughout his remarkable career trajectory.

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Interface Magazine

Matthew Cowan: Silver ions to the rescue!

July 10, 2015

We’re often told that obliging industry to significantly reduce energy consumption and energy-related emissions would be bad for business and the economy. There may be some truth in that, but it also seems apparent that if there was the political and economic will, there would be the scientific ways.

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Podcasts

Ambitious proposals for surplus electricity once Tiwai closes

Ambitious proposals for surplus electricity once Tiwai closes

August 11, 2020

Professors Sally Brooker and David Williams discuss options for using surplus electricity at the Manapouri power station.

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Videos

Sally Brooker - environmentally-friendly plastics

March 21, 2019

Professor Sally Brooker is using metal catalysts to develop cheap, environmentally-friendly plastics for use in a host of applications.

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