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Probing the surfaces of ionic liquids by reactive-atom scattering

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  • Full or part time
    Prof K G McKendrick
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Ionic liquids are an important class of compounds which have attracted enormous interest in recent years due to their potential use in widespread applications. In a number of these, such as CO2 sequestration, other gas separations, and multiphase catalysis, the structure of the extreme outer layer of the liquid is crucial in controlling molecular transfer through or reaction at the gas-liquid interface. Probing the structure of such interfaces is an important but experimentally challenging problem. It has been tackled using a number of conventional surface-science and surface-spectroscopy tools, but these all have their own limitations of excessive penetration depth or lack of chemical specificity.

We have been developing a promising alternative method, reactive-atom scattering, which is based on laser-spectroscopic detection of the products of the reaction of a gas-phase projectile with a specific functional group at the surface. By using oxygen atoms as the probe, we have demonstrated that the relative yields of the OH product reflect the exposure of alkyl functional groups at the extreme outer layer of the liquid. Building on recent successful proof-of-concept work, we will further develop this method to detect additional functional groups using novel reactive projectiles. We will apply it probe the surface composition of chemically heterogeneous liquids, particularly novel classes of ionic liquids, their mixtures, and solutions of low-volatility solutes in ionic-liquid solvents.

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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 or 2:1 Class MChem degree in Chemistry, or equivalent in a relevant related subject. This project is funded by an EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), providing tuition fees and a stipend (approx. £14,500) for 3.5 years, and is only available to UK & EU nationals resident in the UK for the last 3 years.

Related Subjects

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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