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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J010839/1
Title: Pure beams of free radicals for studies of radical-surface chemistry
Principal Investigator: Price, Professor SD
Other Investigators:
Parkin, Professor IP Brown, Professor W
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Ionbond Ltd Teer Coatings Ltd
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 September 2012 Ends: 28 February 2017 Value (£): 940,107
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions Surfaces & Interfaces
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
01 Dec 2011 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - December 2011 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Free radicals, molecules with one or more unpaired electrons, are highly chemically reactive. This high reactivity means that free radicals exert a major influence on the chemistry of any environment in which they are formed, even though they are often not the most abundant species. For example, it is free radical chemistry that controls important atmospheric phenomena such as the ozone hole and the formation of photochemical smog.

The interactions of free radicals with surfaces are thought to be vitally important in controlling the chemistry of formation of thin-films from electrical discharges, so called plasma-assisted deposition. Such thin-films have enormous technological importance in fields such as integrated circuits and solar cells. However, the details of the interactions of the radicals with the surfaces in these film formation processes are not well understood. The major hurdle to investigating this surface chemistry of free radicals is that, currently, there is no general technique available to dose a surface with only the free radical of interest, for example CH. Current radical sources generate the radicals from a precursor gas (e.g. CH from C2H2) and the precursor gas molecules always outnumber the radicals. Thus if a surface was dosed from a conventional radical source, the precursor molecules would be the dominant species on the surface, making it almost impossible to study the interactions of the radical with the surface using standard surface science techniques.

In this application, we propose the development of a new source of free radicals which will generate "clean" beams of the radical species, uncontaminated by the precursor molecule. The source will work by generating negative ions (e.g. CH-), which can be mass selected to form a clean beam. The radicals are then generated from the negative ions by using a laser beam to knock off the electron. This photo-detachment of negative ions will yield a clean beam of the radical species of interest. Calculations given in the proposal show that a practical flux of free radicals can be generated by this methodology.

The clean beams of free radicals can then be used to dose the surface with the radical species, and the surface can be studied using the standard techniques of surface science to reveal the details of the radicals sticking and surface chemistry. We propose to develop the source and then use it to study the radical-surface interactions involved in three technologically important film deposition processes. The chemistry revealed by our investigations will dramatically improve our understanding of what is going on in these industrially relevant surface reactions and allow us to optimize and refine these deposition processes in the light of the chemistry that is occurring.

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