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Cold and controlled ion–radical reactions

   Department of Physics

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  Dr Brianna Heazlewood  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Ions and radicals are abundant in complex gas-phase environments – they are present in the atmosphere, the interstellar medium, combustion environments, and plasmas. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for reactions between ions and radicals is therefore relevant for a vast array of multi-disciplinary fields including atmospheric science and industrial processes. Despite their importance, precise gas-phase measurements of these processes are severely limited. Using cold conditions and the application of external electromagnetic fields, we can explore how these important species react. The resulting measurements will provide critical data that will improve the accuracy of, for example, atmospheric and interstellar models. By carefully manipulating and varying the properties of the reactants, we can establish which variables play an important role in reaction processes. Such details are lost at higher temperatures, where many states are populated and the contributions of individual parameters is harder (if not impossible) to figure out.

Establishing the ideal experimental parameters is frequently a challenging, multi-dimensional problem. A number of complementary approaches (including simulations) will be employed to guide the choice of experimental parameters. Experiments will involve the use of a cryogenic linear Paul ion trap and laser cooling techniques, for the formation of cold ionic targets, alongside a Zeeman decelerator and magnetic guide, for the formation of cold radical beams. Experimental data analysis will be aided by the use of simulations and optimisation methods. The project is multi-disciplinary; the student will develop an understanding of fundamental principles, whilst also being trained in data science and algorithmic techniques. The project will involve the development of novel devices and will enable measurements of chemical reactivity to be undertaken with unprecedented control and precision.

Candidates should have at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree in Chemistry, Physics or a related field. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to work closely with our diverse team – including physicists, chemists and computer scientists. Expert mentoring and training will be provided by members of the supervisory team and by external collaborators. Further information on our research group, alongside a list of publications, can be found at:


For any enquiries please contact, Dr Brianna Heazlewood on: [Email Address Removed]

To apply please visit: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-to-apply/ and click on the 'Ready to apply? Apply online' button. Please ensure you quote the following reference on your application: Cold and controlled ion–radical reactions (Reference: PPPR015)

Funding Notes

Funded by European Research Council (ERC) for 3.5 years, this award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant. The maintenance grant is £15,609 pa for 2021/22, with the possibility of an increase for 2022/23.


Recent publications from the group (related to this project) include:
"Optimizing the intensity and purity of a Zeeman-decelerated beam", O. Mohamed*, L. Y. Wu*, A. Tsikritea & B. R. Heazlewood, Rev. Sci. Instrum. 92, 093201 (2021).
"Inverse kinetic isotope effects in the charge transfer reactions of ammonia with rare gas ions", A. Tsikritea, K. Park, P. Bertier, J. Loreau, T. P. Softley & B. R. Heazlewood, Chem. Sci. 12, 10005-10013 (2021).
"Towards chemistry at absolute zero", B. R. Heazlewood & T. P. Softley, Nat. Rev. Chem. 5, 125-140 (2021).
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