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Matt Stoodley

PhD Project:

Developing light-driven molecular switches for use on solid substrates

Supervisors: Reinhard Maurer (Computational/ Theoretical Chemistry - The University of Warwick), David Duncan (Surface Scientist - Diamond Light Source)

Project Description

Designing purpose built molecular devices is one of the ultimate goals of nanotechnology, potentially permitting mechanical control at the sub-nanometer scale. One of the primary fields in such work is the design of light-driven molecular switches and motors, which alter their conformation after exposure to specific frequencies of light. Many molecules have been designed that can perform light-driven switching when in a solvent, however these capabilities are almost always quenched when such molecules are dispersed onto a solid surface.

This PhD project aims to exploit a chemically flexible group of switching molecules, hemithioindigos (HTIs), which can be tailored with a wide variety of different functional groups, to understand what is required to design a molecule that will maintain its switching capabilities on a solid substrate. This will be done by a feedback loop between high precision measurements, that allow us to quantitatively probe the structure of these molecules down to a few thousandths of a nanometer and state-of-the-art theoretical calculations. Theoretical density functional theory calculations will be used to predict how different functionalisations of the molecules will affect their switching capabilities when supported on a substrate, and the experimental X-ray standing waves measurements will then probe these capabilities by monitoring differences in the adsorbed structure, feeding back stringent benchmark parameters to refine the calculations to facilitate more accurate predictions.

Should this work be successful it would constitute a leap forward in such nano-machines, potentially allowing future molecular switches and motors to be rationally designed, rather than relying upon trial-and-error methodologies.

Academic Background

Analytical Science Centre of Doctoral Training (PhD) - University of Warwick 2020 - Present
Master of Chemistry (MChem) - University of Manchester 2016 - 2020