Our research covers a wide range of themes:

Functional Interfaces

From chirality to spin – Raval, Teobaldi, Persson, Martin, Barrett

Key contributions have been made in the areas of 2D surface chiral crystallisation and enantiomer self-organisation (Nature Chem. 2009) where we have developed a new, rigorous description of the chirality of an interface (JACS 2011JACS 2009;ACIE 2010,JPCC 2011). New processes such as dipole-directed growth (Nature Nano. 2008) and cooperative reaction dynamics (Nature Chem. 2009) and reaction-induced migration (Nature Chem. 2011) of molecules on silicon surfaces have been revealed from computer simulations. We have used vicinal surfaces to tailor the morphology and electronic structure of interfaces (PRB 2013) and revealed for the first time that surface and subsurface defects in graphite account for van-der-Waals and spin-polarization effects (PRB 2010).


From single crystals to nanoparticles – Raval, Volk, Arnolds, Teobaldi

We have demonstrated covalent coupling directly at a surface via C-C and C-metal-C bond formation (JACS 2011,missing? ACS Nano 2011). We have obtained new insights from theory of the geometric structure and the crucial role of electron traps for the reactivity of the photo-catalytically active rutile surface (PRL 2008, PNAS 2010). We have shown that cell death caused by laser irradiation of gold nanoparticles is caused by a photochemical reaction at the gold surface (Nano Lett. 2010). We have used time resolved pump-probe techniques to identify the key dynamical step in a NOx removal catalytic reaction on supported silver nanoparticles (Science 2009). We have introduced a new high-resolution sizing method for ligand-coated nanoparticles using differential centrifugal sedimentation (ACS Nano 2013).

Water at interfaces

From vacuum to electrochemistry – Hodgson, Lucas, Raval, Darling

In wetting of metal surfaces we have shown that water and hydroxyl do not form the ice-like networks (PRL 2011), but instead form novel 1D (Nature Materials 2009) or incomplete H bonding networks (PRL 2011) that break the ‘ice rules’ (Chem. Sci. 2012). We have revealed the structure of water and the double layer at the electrochemical interface on pure and alloy surfaces (Electrochem. Comm. 2011J. Phys. Chem. C 2013)

Complex intermetallics

From quasicrystals to fuel cells – Lucas, McGrath, Sharma, Dhanak

Our more than 1000-fold cited paper on new alloys for fuel cells (Nature 2007) started experimental and theoretical research of bimetallic materials to identify catalysts that are more effective and cheaper than pure platinum. We have reported the first examples of templated quasicrystalline ordering of a single element (Nat. Comm 2013) or molecular adlayers Nano Letters (2014).  

Molecular electronics and electrochemistry

From single molecules to ultrafast electrochemistry – Nichols, Lucas, Persson, Arnolds

In molecular electronics, state of the art single molecule electrical measurements have been made evaluating the mechanisms of charge transport through porphyrin oligomers (Nature Nano 2011), highly transmissive single molecular wires (JACS 2009JACS 2008) and determined the impact of E-Z photo-isomerization on single molecular conductance (Nano Letters 2010). Current work funded by the Leverhulme Trust  is now investigating the interplay between molecular conductance and molecular vibrations using ultrafast sum-frequency generation. We have used density functional theory to elucidate the nature of a molecular switch (PRL 2013) and the atomic scale control of intramolecular hydrogen transfer in a single porphycene molecule (Nature Chemistry 2014, PRL 2013).  We study structure and charge transfer at the electrochemical interface with synchrotron surface X-ray scattering and have recently worked on the effects of temperature in electrochemical systems (JACS 2009) and the design of bimetallic interfaces using underpotential deposition (JPCC 2012).


From protein folding to redox reactions – Volk, Martin, Weightman, Arnolds

We have experimentally determined the roughness of the protein folding energy landscape (PNAS 2012) and shown that the secondary structure of a protein capping layer on gold nanoparticles is influenced by the surface curvature (ACS Nano 2012). We have overcome some of the challenging problems involved in real-time investigations of protein dynamics coupled to biological redox chemistry in a study of human cytochrome P450 reductase and used reflection anisotropy spectroscopy to show that the optical axes of the dipoles are aligned along the optical axes of the Au(110) substrate (PRE 2012). We are using terahertz radiation to study the mechanisms of biological organisation (Phys. Bio. 2012, Phys. Med. Biol. 2013

Image analysis

From scanning probe tips to cancer detection – Barrett, Weightman, Teobaldi, Persson

We have made significant contributions to the theory of contrast in atomic force microscopy (PRL 2011) and scanning tunnelling microscopy (PRL 2011 and Physics Viewpoint; PRL 2012).

We have constructed a scanning near field optical microscope on the free-electron laser at the ALICE accelerator at Daresbury and used it to shown that topographical and chemical images with sub-cellular spatial resolution have the potential to provide a diagnostic for oesophageal adenocarcinoma (APL 2013) in collaboration with clinicians at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital Trusts.

The free software ImageSXM was developed in Liverpool and forms the base for a recent book on Image Analysis in Earth Sciences by Heilbronner and Barrett.