We measure the physical properties that lead to molecular behavior and reactivity. Through a combination of state-of-the-art facilities and the interdisciplinary nature of our program, researchers explore physical chemistry in solids, liquids and gases, and the interfaces where they meet.
Research groups in this area probe the intermolecular forces that drive the self-assembly of new energy-storage materials and the thermodynamics and phase behavior of novel macromolecules. Lasers are used to study the physics of electron transfer events that capture solar energy and chemical changes on time scales from femtoseconds to days. Our graduate students use nuclear spins to map the structures of massive proteins, and mass spectrometry to discover acids and bases with phenomenal reactivities. Microwave photons uncover the structures of ions and molecular clusters that react in the Earth's atmosphere, while lasers and sophisticated ion optics probe bare and partially ligated metal clusters that underlie the development of modern catalysts. Electron and scanning probe microscopes bring the molecular world into vivid focus, revealing growth mechanisms of nanoscopic particles and hybrid materials.