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


Developing 'light-controllable product selectivity switches' is of great interest in cross-coupling reactions-based chemical synthesis. Nanoparticles (NPs) of plasmonic metals can intensely absorb visible light due to the localised surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) effect. This is 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 hasn't been widely used in important chemical synthesis due to the challenge of designing a feasible catalyst-reaction system directly applying the field enhancement.

On an environmentally-friendly plasmonic metal nanoparticle surface, light irradiation can change the reactants adsorption on the surface and change the relative ratio of the reactants for reaction. This adsorption selectivity change is due to the enhanced electromagnetic field of the plasmonic metal, and thus change the reacting ratio of the reactants to give different product. 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.

In this project, we aim to develop a one pot synthesis of macrocycles using the wavelength to tune Sonogashira or Glaser coupling, with controllable cyclisation selectivity under diluted conditions.

Research activities

In this project you will investigate a novel method to synthesis macrocycle molecules using plasmonic catalysis.


We expect to develop a new method of macrocycle synthesis technology by light and plasmonic electromagnetic field, with high selectivity and efficiency.

Upon successful completion of this project you can expect to develop:

  • the basic skills 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
  • an understanding of practical approaches to the study of materials in relation to wider research questions
  • the ability to debate the role of science-based studies in physical and organic chemistry, including the potential advantages and constraints inherent within different approaches
  • the ability to critically assess reports and publications deriving from research project, as well as to propose analytical projects with physical chemistry relevance.


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

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.