Study level

Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme


Science and Engineering Faculty

School of Chemistry and Physics

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Kathryn Fairfull-Smith
Future Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr Rob Jones
Senior Research Infrastructure Specialist (Surface Mass Spectrometry)
Division / Faculty
Institute for Future Environments
Dr Sarina Sarina
Senior Research Fellow (DECRA)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Plasmonic metal nanoparticles (NP) can intensely absorb visible light due to the localised surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) effect. This is where the conduction electrons gain the energy of the incident light through LSPR effect. Furthermore, the oscillating electric dipole generates intense electromagnetic field in close proximity to the NP.

The application of photo-excited energetic electrons in direct photocatalysis of metal NPs is well established by our previous studies. However, the plasmonic field enhancement property has not yet been widely used in important chemical synthesis due to the challenge of designing a feasible catalyst-reaction system directly applying the field enhancement.

On the plasmonic metal nanoparticle surface, light irradiation can change the molecule adsorption on the surface. This adsorption selectivity change is due to the enhanced electromagnetic field of the plasmonic metal. Different wavelengths contribute to tune this selectivity more accurately in a molecular level.

We have only been able to observe this phenomenon from the concentration change of bulk solution in our previous study. We haven't been able to see directly from the surface.

Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF SIMS) is a surface-sensitive analytical method that uses a pulsed ion beam to identify molecules from the very outermost surface of the sample. This is a helpful characterisation tool for visualising the adsorption process.

Research activities

In this project you will investigate the wavelength dependent adsorption of molecules on metal nanoparticle surface by visualising the process based on ToF-SIMS technique. Amine and nitroxide compounds will be applied as target molecules to show selective adsorption on plasmonic metal surface when irradiated with different wavelengths.


We expect to develop a ToF-SIMS-based characterisation of molecule adsorption on catalyst surface.

Upon successful completion of this project you can expect to have developed the ability to:

  • acquire, process, report and interpret research experimental data from a number of techniques, including sample preparation and analysis by ToF-SIMS, SEM-EDS, XRF, FTIR and organic compound analysis
  • understand practical approaches to the study of materials in relation to wider research questions
  • debate the role of science-based studies in physical and organic chemistry, including the potential advantages and constraints inherent within different approaches
  • critically assess reports and publications deriving from research project, as well as to propose analytical projects with physical chemistry relevance.

Skills and experience

You should have skills and experience in synthetic chemistry, catalysis, surface science and mass spectrometry.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.