EPSRC IS 16/17

Project: Other project (funded)Restricted grant

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Department / unit(s)


This proposal brings together 14 colleagues to develop a Centre for In-Situ Photochemistry and its Applications.

Layman's description

The energy to stimulate chemical reactions may be provided by the absorption of light. Examples include plant photosynthesis, the response of the eye in vision, the formation of ozone in the upper atmosphere, and the bleaching of dyes. Photochemistry is a quantum phenomenon: only light absorbed can stimulate a reaction and the threshold for reaction depends on the energy of each light quantum, not on the light intensity. Much of our knowledge of the intimate details of chemical reactions in general stems from the use of pulsed lasers in conjunction with photochemistry, because laser pulses can be exceptionally short.

This proposal brings together 14 colleagues to develop a Centre for In-Situ Photochemistry and its Applications. Individually or in 2-way partnerships, we have developed several solutions to the problem of monitoring photochemical reactions as they proceed (in-situ) with different spectroscopic techniques. They include nuclear magnetic resonance (Perutz and Duckett), infrared absorption (Fairlamb), electron spin resonance (Chechik), electron diffraction (Wann), mass spectrometry (Dessent), visible absorption (Moore and Perutz). We are already engaged in a wide variety of applications: chemical synthesis, solar energy conversion, dye bleaching, light-induced changes in liquid crystals and anti-microbial agents are under active investigation.

We will now bring together this larger group to develop a coordinated approach to address major problems through the application of our techniques. Initially, we seek EPSRC Institutional funding to coordinate the group and identify the most significant problems and methods. Our plan is to obtain EPSRC funding for major collaborative project(s) with the intention of making a step-change in the use of spectroscopic methods for the monitoring of photochemical reactions, and consequent improvements in their applications to chemical synthesis and catalysis, health and energy. Our proposals include several industrial collaborators – see below. We also intend to bid for a CDT in a related area with a wider focus, including colleagues from Sheffield. The CDT, to be named Light induced reactivity; from fundamentals to applications will include academic staff from physics, biology, engineering and medicine departments in York and Sheffield.

York’s unique strength derives from its diverse range of research and expertise in photochemistry with its focus on understanding chemical reactivity and developing its applications. Within 3-7 years, we envisage that this integrated collaborative network will be recognised as hosting outstanding collaborative research with several multi-investigator EPSRC grants and hosting the UK’s leading training centre for graduates/PDRAs in photochemistry. This vision is elaborated below.

Key findings

The grant enabled us to set up the Centre for In-situ Photochemistry, to develop new collaborations, to run an international symposium, to highlight gender diversity and equality, to make new industrial contacts, to produce a database of industrial companies with relevant interests and to carry out proof-of-principle experiments. None of this would have happened without the grant. We look forward to new grant applications and industrial collaborations. The group will carry forward into the future and photochemistry has become one of several research themes of the Department of Chemistry. In 2018, we submitted an outline bid to EPSRC for a CDT entitled "Light matters: interactions, reactions and applications" together with colleagues from Sheffield and Leeds.

The grant enabled us to set up the Centre for In-situ Photochemistry with 15 academics to coordinate our approach to photochemical research. We focused on three research themes with a leader for each and an overall chair: (a) developing future photochemical technologies, (b) driving environmental sustainability, productivity and resilience by harnessing the photon, (c) harnessing photochemistry for health and wellbeing.
Activity 1. Appointment and activities of research associate. The research associate, Dr Lucía D’Andrea, coordinated all activities, recorded meetings of the groups, held 1:1 meetings with colleagues and with the Research and Innovation Office, organised the symposium and researched the industrial database. We extended Dr D’Andrea’s appointment by two months with other funding.
Activity 2. Meetings of members of Centre for In-situ Photochemistry. Regular meetings of the whole group and of each sub-group (a-c, above) were designed to inform members of existing research, to develop new ideas and to formulate plans for grant applications. Activities will continue indefinitely and the Department of Chemistry agreed that Photochemistry and Spectroscopy should become a major departmental research theme. Strategy was developed between the chair and the theme leaders.
Activity 3. Symposium “Emerging Areas of Photochemistry: From Fundamentals to Applications”. This symposium highlighted developments across a wide range of topics and informed delegates from outside York of our activities. It illustrated the gender diversity of the field and our diversity commitment in keeping with our Athena SWAN Gold award (130 delegates, 38% of speakers, 60% of session chairs female; one speaker black minority; external speakers from Belgium, France, Germany and UK).
Activity 4. Enhanced industrial contacts and database of relevant companies. We engaged with several new companies, including Pfizer and Domino Printing. We compiled a database of companies with interests relevant to photochemistry which will assist in forging further industrial links. Additionally, we developed our industrial engagement policy with the Research and Innovation Office.
Activity 5. Research in photochemistry proof of principle experiments. The grant supported proof-of-principle experiments in research on the conversion of the sun’s energy into chemical energy. This represents an important part of the theme on environmental sustainability, productivity and resilience.
Short titleCentre for In-Situ Photochemistry and its Applications
Effective start/end date1/10/1630/06/17

Award relations

EPSRC IS 16/17

Perutz, R. N.

EPSRC: £35,989.00


Award date: 1/10/16

Award: UK Research CouncilsAward


  • EPSRC: £35,989.00

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