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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J017973/1
Title: Start the clock: a new direct method to study collisions of electronically excited molecules
Principal Investigator: Costen, Professor ML
Other Investigators:
McKendrick, Professor KG Townsend, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 06 August 2012 Ends: 05 August 2016 Value (£): 540,750
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
08 Feb 2012 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - February 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Understanding the chemistry of the atmosphere, combustion systems and technological plasmas is of great importance in the modern world. A very significant process in these gas-phase environments is the transfer of energy between molecules during collisions. The total amount of internal energy that a molecule possesses is important, but equally if not more important is what form that energy takes. It may be in the form of translational, rotational or vibrational motion of the molecule, or even in the arrangement of the electrons. A large amount of energy may be stored in a rearrangement of the electronic structure of a molecule, producing an electronically excited state. Such excited states occur in energetic environments such as combustion or plasmas, and their decay is what is responsible for the typically observed light emission. The excited states are often also created when molecules are probed in experiments using optical methods. The electronic energy may be re-radiated, but generally not before the molecule has undergone collisions with other gas-phase molecules. This may result in translational, rotational or vibrational energy transfer within the excited electronic state. Significantly, it may also involve either a reaction that removes the excited molecule altogether, or a quenching collision in which the electronic energy is lost to the collision partner.

Despite their importance, surprisingly little is known about the fundamental forces involved in collisions of electronically excited molecules. The best way to determine the detailed dynamics of the collisions of such molecules is using a technique called crossed molecular beam (CMB) scattering. In this method, defined beams of different molecules are collided in a vacuum chamber, and the details of their directions of travel and internal energies are observed in some fashion. We will extend this technique previously used for electronic ground state molecules to the collisions of electronically excited molecules, specifically NO, which is an important molecule in the atmosphere and combustion. We will build a new state-of-the-art CMB scattering apparatus, and by using a combination of laser pulses of different wavelengths will prepare NO molecules in their excited state. After these have collided with the target molecules we will probe the scattered molecules with a laser-based detection technique called velocity map ion-imaging, which is capable of accurately measuring their velocities. The laser pulse that prepares the excited NO defines a zero-time for the experiment, and so 'starts the clock' ticking. This will give us much better definition of the experiment than is usual in CMB experiments, and hence higher sensitivity to the scattering dynamics. We will use this sensitivity to study the collisions of NO with simple molecules relevant to combustion and the atmosphere, namely N2, O2 and CO. These are known to show very different quenching and reactive behaviours with excited NO, but little or nothing is known about the forces involved in these interactions.

The results from our experiments will be used to deepen our understanding of what is important is directing energy transfer in electronically excited molecules, and will help to drive the development of better theoretical models and calculations, as well as providing information of direct relevance to scientist working in the combustion and atmospheric probing of NO.

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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk