Light can drive chemical and physical change of molecules and, while the intrinsic dynamics are important, so is the environment. For example, it is well-known that the dynamics in the gas- and solution-phase can differ markedly. But what about at the interface between these two phases, where actually much photo-chemistry takes place (e.g. atmospheric chemistry)? A recent indirect probe has suggested that phenol photo-oxidation speeds up by 104 at the water/air interface (Nat Chem 13, 306 (2021)) compared to bulk water! That experiment is indirect because it measured the solvent rather that the phenol or products’ (radical/electron) response. In the last 6 months, have developed a method to probe the relevant species directly (using optically-gated electronic sum-frequency generation (OKG-ESFG)). We will exploit our unique position to advance knowledge of photo-dynamics at the water/air interface, by probing:
(1) The photo-oxidation of phenol and the effect of going from water/air to water/oil interfaces (by para-substitution of phenol with alkyl groups of varying lengths);
(2) The dynamics of pyruvic acid and pyruvate anion, which drive key atmospheric processes and for which computational work suggests a strong dependence of triplet yield on the extent of hydration (overlap with BFEC).
(3) The dynamics of nucleo-bases/sides/tides. We have preliminary data showing that the decay dynamics of adenine differ subtly at the interface compared to bulk water. This is relevant because the extent of hydration is limited in DNA especially around the nucleobase so that our new experiments may offer a more detailed view of the relevant nucleobase photo-dynamics.
Applicants should have a first-class or upper second-class Master’s degree.
Eligibility: The position is only open to applicants from the UK for fees purposes. Early applications are strongly encouraged as the position will be filled when a suitable candidate is identified.
How To Apply: An informal expression of interest can be made by contacting Prof Jan Verlet, email: [Email Address Removed].
Formal applications should be made online via Durham’s on-line application portal: https://studyatdurham.microsoftcrmportals.com/en-US/