Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy
  • Honours
  • Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Stephen Blanksby
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Infrastructure)/Principal Research Fellow (Mass Spectrometry)
Division / Faculty
Academic Division
Dr Berwyck Poad
Senior Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Science

External supervisors

  • Prof. Adam Trevitt (UOW)
  • Dr Gabriel da Silva (U. Melb)


Soot formation occurs via a complex network of chemical reactions leading from simple gases to macromolecular aggregates. Despite being central to our understanding of extreme environments ranging from engines, to bushfires and interstellar clouds, the critical steps and intermediates in these reactions are poorly described.

This project will deploy advanced mass spectrometry and laser-based methods to generate, isolate and interrogate gas phase free radical intermediates and elucidate their role in molecular weight growth processes.

Through these chemical insights, advanced computational models will be developed that support better prediction of soot particle composition and concentration.

Research activities

Students working on this project will develop skills in advanced mass spectrometry.

Research activities include:

  • conducting gas phase ion-molecule reactions
  • laser-photodissociation of gaseous ions and radicals.

In parallel students will gain experience in the application of advanced quantum chemical calculations to elucidate the structure and energetics of ions and radicals in the gas phase.


Comprehensive understanding of gas-phase radical reactions and intermediates to inform molecular- level models for molecular weight growth in gaseous environments (including combustion systems, planetary atmospheres and circumstellar gas clouds).

The project will also develop innovative new instrumentation to enable observation of ion-molecule reactions at elevated temperatures and pressures with potential spin-off applications in analytical spectrometry.

Skills and experience

Developing hands on skills in advanced instrumentation (including mass spectrometers and laser systems) provides graduates with a competitive advantage for a range of challenging and exciting career paths in science, technology, industry and government.



Contact the supervisor for more information.