School of Chemistry

Molecular Bonding and Spectroscopy

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Molecules – the fundamental building blocks of materials and living organisms (including humans) are invisibly tiny, with more than 250,000 H2O molecules required to span the diameter of a single strand of hair. Our research makes molecules tangible by building bridges to the molecular world that reveal molecular structure and function, explaining why molecules interact with each other, with surfaces, or with radiation, and making clear how they react in chemical reactions.

We invent a variety of experimental and theoretical methods, and develop instrumentation that allows the study of molecules in gasses, solids or liquids, adsorbed on surfaces, or entrapped in pores. This fundamental knowledge is vitally important for solving challenges across a broad range of chemistry topics, including the discovery of materials, sustainable catalysis, and new functional devices.

Our Research

“What would happen if we could arrange atoms one by one the way we want them?” wondered Richard Feynman as early as 1959. Instead of tiny tools dreamt by Feynman, chemists probe and manipulate molecules with lasers, X-rays, or beams of fast particles.

In this way, spectra, diffractograms, or images unveil molecular composition, structure, and dynamic behaviour. Similarly, light, heat, electric current, X-rays, or electron beams applied to molecules trigger chemical reactions by exciting vibrations or rotations, ionising them or even breaking interatomic bonds directly.

This allows us to study molecules ‘in action’ and, combined with theoretical modelling, our powerful approach sheds light on the private lives of molecules in chemical reactions.

Our core research, aimed at the fundamental understanding of molecular structure, function, and reactivity, is heavily reliant on our innovations in analytical chemistry, utilising different types of spectroscopy and microscopy, all underpinned by a deep specialism in quantum chemistry, density functional theory, and statistical thermodynamics methods, along with our rich expertise in the preparation of several specialist materials, including ionic liquids, coordination compounds, molecular monolayers, graphene, nanotubes, and nanoparticles.

Our Research Theme centres on the unravelling of the most fundamental mysteries of chemistry.


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Blurring the Boundary between Homogenous and Heterogeneous Catalysis using Palladium Nanoclusters with Dynamic Surfaces.

A recent publication led by Dr Jesum Alves Fernandes, with Professor Pete Licence, Professor Andrei Khlobystov, and Dr Graham Rance, in the high impact journal Nature Communications.

Stabilization of Polyoxometalate Charge Carriers via Redox‐Driven Nanoconfinement in Single‐Walled Carbon Nanotubes.

A recent publication between the MBS and Materials theme featuring Professor Andrei Khlobystov, Dr Graham Rance, Dr Lee Johnson, Dr. Darren Walsh, and Dr Graham Newton, in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Two chemically distinct root lignin barriers control solute and water balance.

A collaborative publication between Professor Mike George and Professor David Salt, School of Biosciences, in the high impact journal of Nature Communications.

Recent Publications

Why charging Li–air batteries with current low-voltage mediators is slow and singlet oxygen does not explain degradation. Ahn, S., Zor, C., Yang, S., Lagnoni, M., Dewar, D., Nimmo, T., …Bruce, P. G. Nature Chemistry 2023

Discovery of new imidazotetrazinones with potential to overcome tumor resistance. Summers, H. S., Lewis, W., Williams, H. E. L., Bradshaw, T. D., Moody, C. J., & Stevens, M. F. G. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 257, Article 115507 2023

Predicting bioactivity of antibiotic metabolites by molecular docking and dynamics. Chio, H., Guest, E. E., Hobman, J. L., Dottorini, T., Hirst, J. D., & Stekel, D. J. Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling, 123, Article 108508. 2023

AI4Green: An Open-Source ELN for Green and Sustainable Chemistry. Boobier, S., Davies, J. C., Derbenev, I. N., Handley, C. M., & Hirst, J. D. Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, 63(10), 2895–2901.2023

Quantitative Raman microscopy to describe structural organisation in hollow microcrystals built from silicon catecholate and amines. Volkov, V. V., Blundell, T. J., Argent, S., & Perry, C. C. Dalton Transactions, 52(21), 7249-7257. 2023


Postgraduate research

Depending on the research group, your project may involve a combination of analytical method development, synthesis of specific molecules or nanomaterials, and theoretical modelling.

We offer a wide range of research projects studying structure, function and reactivity of different molecules by advanced methods:

  • spectroscopy
  • microscopy
  • electrochemistry
  • photochemistry
  • theoretical modelling of molecular electronic structure
  • intermolecular interactions

Chemistry PhD/MRes

How to apply

Postgraduate Funding

Research Fellowships

Students in the Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry
Researchers using the X-Ray Photoelectron Spectrometer
Technician in the Mass Spectrometry laboratory
Researchers working out calculations on a whiteboard




School of Chemistry

University Park Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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