Physics and Astronomy PhD (Molecular Physics specialism)

Molecular physics research is directed towards the study of the reactions of charge particles with neutral molecules at low energies. As well as the fundamental aspects of the research, the results have important applications to the physics and chemistry of naturally occurring plasmas, industrial plasmas (such as surface etchant plasmas), chemical lasers, pollutant monitoring, and trace gas detection.

Molecular physics research is directed towards the study of the reactions of charge particles with neutral molecules at low energies. As well as the fundamental aspects of the research, the results have important applications to the physics and chemistry of naturally occurring plasmas, industrial plasmas (such as surface etchant plasmas), chemical lasers, pollutant monitoring, and trace gas detection.

Our research programme provides reaction rate coefficients, and identifies the product ions of ion-molecule and electron-molecule processes. We use the following equipment built at the University: a variable temperature selected ion flow tube instrument to study bimolecular ion-molecule reactions in 0.5 Torr helium under thermal conditions, and an electron swarm instrument, which provides unique data on electron-molecule collisions as a function of mean electron energy in ~1 bar buffer gas.

Our research programmes are greatly expanding the database on the fundamental processes occurring in technologically important plasmas, so that more accurate models of plasmas can be constructed. Simulations resulting from these models will enable opportunities for new developments in plasma processing to be identified.

In addition, we are establishing a multidisciplinary research facility for sensitive and selective trace gas analysis using a proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer (PTRMS). The research programme comprises core activities based in molecular physics, together with a number of collaborative research projects in the areas of detection, atmospheric, medical, and materials science research. As new applications emerge, these will synergistically feed into the core programme of research to develop the PTR-MS and to explore gas-phase ion-molecule chemistry.