Work Programme

In this ESF programme we will bring European research teams together to develop an integrated collaborative research programme to perform systematic investigations of how electron induced processes may be used to manipulate molecular formation and reactions as one makes the transition from isolated particle behaviour in a low pressure gas to many body interactions in the condensed phase.

The work programme will comprise of a scientific programme dedicated to co-ordinating research in participating laboratories and research institutes, this will primarily be performed by exchange of personnel and thus conducted through joint research projects in the gas phase. Experimental research will include studies of the collisions of electrons with molecules held on surfaces in mono- or multi-layers, with bulk material, and within with clusters. The study of electron interactions with clusters is seen to be of particular significance since this provides the opportunity for investigating binary collisions which are expected to be important in nano-scale chemistry and provide a bridge between single molecule reactions and bulk phenomena. Each of the experimental studies is supported by theoretical studies.

The target molecules will be largely chosen for their applications and will include a variety of atmospherically, industrially and biologically important molecules. For example the bond cleavage of halocarbons is pivotal to the plasma etching industry and therefore studies will concentrate upon investigating new ‘environmentally friendly’ halocarbon compounds that may be adopted by the industry to fulfil the requirements of the Montreal Treaty. For the life sciences amino acids, of the bases of DNA and strands of DNA itself, will be studied to extend and refine present knowledge of the mechanisms of single and double strand breaks of DNA induced by secondary electrons, in particular down to thermal energies where cross-sections may be very high.

In the study of how the elementary processes involving electrons change during the transition from isolated particle behaviour in a low pressure gas to many body interactions in the condensed phase two complimentary approaches exist : (i) inter-phase and (ii) cluster physics and chemistry. In the former approach, a given reaction or property is studied as a function of the density and nature of the medium in which it occurs from the low-pressure gas to the liquid or solid. Traditionally, such studies begin at either end of the density range: from the solid (liquid) density to progressively lower densities and from a low-density gas (binary collisions) to progressively higher densities (multiple scattering regime). In the latter approach, the properties and reactions of a given species (atom or molecule) are studied as a function of its size (increased gradually by clustering), cluster shape and cluster composition. A unique feature of clusters is that they allow studies of the transition from large finite clusters to the bulk. Thus, one can determine the minimum cluster size beyond which properties are essentially those of the bulk material. In this programme specific molecules and electron processes will be studied as a function of phase by combining complementary research techniques from different European research groups.

Of particular importance will be the transfer of knowledge from the study of single gas phase collisions to the use of STM technology to manipulate individual molecules on selected surfaces, and control chemical reactions with sub-Ångstrom resolution, for example chiral recognition in cysteine. STM provides a very powerful and direct method of detecting and creating bond cleavage and vibrational excitation at the single molecule level for surface adsorbed species and STM prepared single site chemistry is now being developed (see above). This programme will be the first forum for the European STM and the molecular physics/physical chemistry communities to interact and collaborate in a substantive way.

The scientific work plan is therefore set out in terms of four inter-linked scientific strands namely the study of :

  1. The study of electron induced reactions in the gaseous phase to determine single electron/isolated molecule interactions (co-ordinator N J Mason)
  2. The study of electron induced reactions as a function of phase including study of molecular clusters to investigate binary collisions (co-ordinator E Illenberger) and
  3. The application of STM technology to electron induced manipulation of single molecules on surfaces (co-ordinator J Pascual)
  4. Since the above are primarily experimental strands a fourth strand that coordinates theoretical and modelling of these processes will be developed ( co-ordinator F Gianturco)

In the latter part of the programme (years 3-5) a fifth strand is envisaged being dedicated to the application of such research to technology and industry. The steering committee of the fourth strand will therefore latterly in the project include industrial/commercial partners. Workshops in each of these areas are planned with two conferences being arranged to bring together all partners. Such conferences may be arranged as part of Eurocore/EU conference series.

In addition to the scientific work programme it is a vital part of the proposal to arrange a training and knowledge transfer programme. These will be aimed at providing training for postgraduate and younger researchers and are expected to be a mixture of formal lectures, tutorials and laboratory exercises. Initial topics include; Molecular structure and dynamics; Surface science; biomolecular chemistry and scattering theory.

Results from the programme will be reported in formal research publications. However the Programme will also publish its formal conference proceedings (it is anticipated that this will be in collaboration with a European Journal). Reports on workshops and notes for participants in the training schools associated with the proposed programme will also be produced as will the customary webpage which will provide details of the research teams taking part in the research programmes and encourage other researchers in Europe to contact participants for further research collaboration and integration.