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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M021823/1
Title: Reactive Scattering Dynamics at the Gas-Liquid Interface: Bridging the Gap between the Gas-Phase and Solution
Principal Investigator: Costen, Professor ML
Other Investigators:
Greaves, Dr SJ McKendrick, Professor KG
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 15 June 2015 Ends: 14 June 2020 Value (£): 808,531
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Feb 2015 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - February 2015 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Anywhere the gas and liquid phases meet, chemistry occurs at the interface. Examples in the natural world include: respiration in living organisms; atmospheric aerosol particles; the surface of the sea on Earth; hydrocarbon particles in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. The chemistry of these interfaces is also vital in man-made environments as well: combustion of liquid fuels; industrial processes such as multiphase catalysis, gas sequestration and distillation. However, despite their importance, in comparison to the chemistry of reactions in the gas-phase or in solution, reactions at the gas-liquid interface are much less well understood. This project aims to deepen our fundamental understanding of reactions at liquid surfaces through a combination of cutting-edge experiment and theory.

Consider a gas molecule approaching a liquid surface. The first encounter it makes with the surface will be an isolated event; the gas phase molecule will collide with a single molecule of the liquid surface. At this point the encounter is essentially the same as a gas phase collision between two isolated molecules. In the gas-phase, the molecules will then recoil and the encounter will be over. In some cases, collisions at the liquid surface will also result in the gas-phase molecule rebounding back into the gas-phase. However, it may instead go on to collide with further liquid surface molecules, and may even pass through the surface of the liquid and into solution, before eventually returning to the gas-phase. Reactions at the gas-liquid interface thus share characteristics of both the gas and solution phases, and by studying the dynamics of the reactions we can bridge the gap between them. This complements the intensive on-going effort in these hitherto largely separate areas, providing a unifying picture of molecular scattering dynamics.

We will develop a new apparatus for our experiments, based on our previous experience in gas-liquid interfacial scattering, and combine it with high-resolution laser spectroscopy previously applied to study gas-phase dynamics. We will use this to study the reaction of CN radicals with liquid hydrocarbons, which forms HCN. The dynamics of this benchmark reaction process have been previously studied in the gas and solution phases. This reaction is not only of fundamental interest, as the CN radical is an important reactive species in extra-terrestrial atmospheres (e.g. atmosphere of Titan), and liquid hydrocarbon combustion. Simultaneously with the experiments, we will develop new theoretical models of the forces between the atoms present, and use those in calculations to simulate the dynamics of the reactions under experimental conditions. We will compare and combine the results of the experiments and theory to provide the most-detailed ever description of gas-liquid interfacial reaction dynamics. The fundamental insights into dynamics at the gas-liquid interface provided by this work will inform our understanding and modelling of the processes at gas-liquid interfaces in a wide range of environments vital to our society, e.g. atmospheric aerosols, liquid fuel combustion.

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