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Dynamics of Inelastic and Reactive Molecular Collisions

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Matthew Costen
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Detailed understanding of molecular collisions, and the resulting energy transfer and/or reaction is vital to improved modelling of a wide range of important chemical environments, including planetary atmospheres, combustion and plasma systems and astrochemistry. In this project, you will apply state-of-the-art chemical dynamics techniques; Crossed-molecular-beam scattering coupled to high-resolution laser spectroscopy and velocity-map ion-imaging for detection, and will study the dynamics of molecular collisions. One strand of work will involve inelastic energy transfer of radicals important in practical environments e.g. NO, OH and CH, with rare gases and small molecules (Nat. Chem. 10, 1148 (2018)). By comparing measurements of differential scattering cross sections, correlated energy transfer, and product rotational angular momentum polarization to scattering calculations, you will perform critical tests of current theoretical models. Another strand will feature reactive collisions of O-atoms and OH with saturated, unsaturated and functionalized hydrocarbons. These systems display competition between abstraction and addition pathways, where measurements of product branching ratios, energy disposal, and scattering angle distributions, can help to disentangle. These measurements will connect directly to our complementary on-going experiments on reactive oxygen chemistry at gas-liquid interfaces.

You will receive an excellent training in modern aspects of experimental science, including: laser spectroscopy; high vacuum technology; electronic data capture; computer modelling. You will be part of a vibrant chemical dynamics research group of academics, post-docs, and PhD students. See our group website at

The Institute of Chemical Sciences (ICS) is an excellent environment for PhD research, with a thriving community of academics, post-doctoral and PhD researchers spread across three sections: Molecular Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, and Dynamics and Structure. ICS also has many links to the other research institutes within the overall umbrella of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, providing a strong interdisciplinary theme to our research. Heriot-Watt University occupies an attractive campus site on the outskirts of Edinburgh, with excellent public transport links to the centre of one of the Europe’s most exciting cities.

Funding Notes

You should have, or expect to receive, a First class MChem degree in Chemistry, or equivalent in a relevant related subject. This project is funded by the Heriot-Watt University James Watt Scholarship programme, which provides tuition fees and a stipend (approx. £15,000) for 3 years of study. It is only open to EU and UK nationals.


T.F.M. Luxford, T.R. Sharples, K.G. McKendrick and M.L. Costen, J. Chem. Phys. 145 174304 (2016)
T.F.M. Luxford, T.R. Sharples, K.G. McKendrick and M.L. Costen, J. Chem. Phys. 147 013912 (2017)
T.R. Sharples, J.G. Leng, T.F.M. Luxford, K.G. McKendrick, P.G. Jambrina, F.J. Aoiz, D.W. Chandler and M.L. Costen Nat. Chem. 10, 1148 (2018)

How good is research at Heriot-Watt University in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 30.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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