Laser Chemistry Laboratory

The Laser Chemistry Laboratory is driven to understand reactive molecules, free radicals and ions in the gas-phase and solution. We are housed in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (SCMB), University of Wollongong, Australia.

Our techniques include ion-trap mass spectrometry, tunable laser photodissociation spectroscopy, gas-phase reaction kinetics and also microdroplet generation and trapping.

We are active in the training of undergraduate and postgraduate students – including Honours, Masters and PhD level. Our graduates have gone on to many sectors including consulting, government, international research labs and education.


Feb 2020: Oisin and Brett have started their PhD journeys with the group – they will be working on various aspects of radical chemistry, molecular-weight growth chemistry, photoinitiation and spectroscopy. Sound action packed. Welcome.

Jan 2020: Oisin’s paper on this distonic radical ion of cyanobenzene in Aust. J. Chem. is accepted. Collaboration with UMelb and QUT. Nice effort to all and well done Oisin.

Jan 2020: Hydroxy fatty-acids get the derivatization + laser PD treatment to reveal their structure. Paper led by QUT and collabs with UOW, accetped in Rapid. Comm. Mass. Spec. 2020.

Dec 2019: Collaboration led by Gabe da Silva with researchers from UMelb, QUT and UOW on SOMO-LUMO orbital conversation is accepted for publication in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.: “Reactions of a distonic peroxyl radical anion influenced by SOMO-HOMO conversion: An example of anion-directed channel switching”.

Nov 2019: Ais Turner and Oisin Shiels have completed their Honours project – both presenting outstanding talks and defending their theses. Great work!

Our Masters project students from FAU Erlangen (Germany) – Natalie and Philip – completed their project work – submitting excellent reports. Lots of exciting results. Great to have you work with us – good luck.

Our Dean Scholar project student Jak submits with research project report with some intruiging new results relating to photoinitiators for radical polymerisation. Nice work Jak.

August 2019: Jak (Deans Scholar), Natalie and Philip (Masters Project students) all start research projects for this semester – welcome!

July 2019: Our collaboration with UMelb, QUT, Sandia N, SLS at the Advanced Light Source on the highly-reactive isomers of the benzyl radical is out in PCCP: Product Detection Study of the Gas-phase Oxidation of Methylphenyl Radicals using Synchrotron Photoionisation Mass Spectrometry

July 2019: Another collaboration with Steve Blanksby’s group at QUT and Kelso at UOW is published in Anal. Chem. “Introduction of a Fixed-Charge, Photolabile Derivative for Enhanced Structural Elucidation of Fatty Acids” – Lasers, Lipids and Light-labile Linkers – whats not to like?

April 2019: Mass update: Lots has happened…

April 2019: Another mission at the Advanced Light Source, LBNL completed by Trevitt, Paddy and collaborators Berwyck Poad (QUT), Gabe da Silva (UMelb) and with Fabien Goulay (WVU). Some beautiful results emering there related to undertanding soot formation and PAH growth.


April 2019: We presented our FAIMS + UV action spectroscopy work at the Faraday Discussions meeting “Advances in ion spectroscopy – from astrophysics to biology” – Sam’s paper on protonated nicotine is here.


Feb 2019: Oisin Shiels and Aislinn Turner have started their Honours year in the group – Oisin is working on the reactivity of radical ions and Aislinn is working on new computational tools to understand reactive molecules (joint with Prof Haibo Yu). Welcome!

Feb 2019: Boris commences his PhD journey in the group. Great to have you on board Boris.

Feb2019: Tassiani Sorreto has started in the group as a Masters of Research projet student.

Feb 2019: Trevitt, Paddy, Sam and Ben attend Gaseous Ions GRC in Ventura, CA. Trevitt presents our new research on the identification and selection of protonated ions. Paddy, Sam and Ben all present posters as well as talks at the preceeding GRS. Oustanding meeting!

Jan 2019: Trevitt, Sam and Ben attend the ANZSMS27 Conference in Auckland – all presenting the groups most recent work on ion spectroscopy, protonation-site selection and ion-radical molecule reactions.

Jan2019: Ben, Sam, Paddy and Trevitt to attend PhysChemPerth2019 – the main conference of the RACI Physical Chemistry Division – held at UWA. Paddy collects a Poster Prize for his poster on the reactivity of the distonic radical ions of aniline reacting with small hydrocarbons.

Jan2019: Our new EKSPLA tunable picosecond systems are installed as part of a 2018 ARC LIEF grant.


Nov 2018: Another successful beamtime expedition at the Advanced Light Source. This time with Paddy, Berwyck Poad (QUT) and Trevitt. Some nice results from this run (intermixed with a few “didnt really work” moments).

Oct 2018: Our 2018 Honours students Brett and Boris complete Honours theses and present outstanding final seminars. Well done.

Oct 2018: Our CHEM341 undergraduate students finish their semester-long research project in the Laser Chemistry Lab. Nice work guys – some great science coming out of those projects!
August 2018: Outstanding cast of collaborators + cover led by  that includes mass spectrometry, OzID, lasers, synthetic chem. deployed in powerful combination to characterise (OAHFA) lipids is published in Journal of Lipid Research


July 2018: Aislinn and Oisin start undergraduate research projects (CHEM 340) in the Laser Chemistry Lab. Welcome!

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June 2018: Our collaboration with Blanksby’s group at QUT on distonic radical oxidation – a journey of negativity and positivity – is now online and is for a special Focus: Application of Photons and Radicals for Mass Spectrometry in JASMS. link

May 2018: Josh departs back to Cardiff after his study abroad internship. Josh worked on our single microdroplet levitation experiment. Thanks Josh!

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May 2018: Paddy and Trevitt complete another (mostly) successful mission at VUV Chemical Dynamics Beamline, Advanced Light Source, LBNL.

Feb 2018: Boris and Brett have started their Honours year in the Laser Chemistry Lab.

Feb 2018: Sam, Ben and Paddy commence their PhD journeys in the Laser Chemistry Laboratory. Their polished-up 2017 Honours Theses are mean and green – are we the only humans in the world that discusses the “wavelength” of the thesis colour?


Jan 2018: James’s paper reports intriguing chemistry of the protonated uracil radical ion oxidation – our results now online in JPCA.

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Nov 2017: Cameron’s first first-author paper is accepted in PCCP – “Highly Efficient Gas-Phase Reactivity of Protonated Pyridine Radicals with Propene” – in collaboration with Blanksby (QUT) and G. da Silva (UMelb). Its online here. Great work Cameron and all.

Nov 2017: Our three Honours students (Paddy, Ben and Sam) have completed their Honours projects dishing out awesome talks and submitting theses brimming with red-hot data. Great effort – well done.

Also, Boris, our ugrad project student (CHEM340), finished his thesis on the droplet levitation experiment – and presented an excellent talk on his research.

Oct 2017: New JACS Communication is online – awesome collaboration with G. da Silva (UMelb) and Hemberger’s team at Swiss Light Source: link

Abstract Image

Sept 2017: The new Laser Chemistry Lab coffee mugs have arrived! Designed by Sam -super effort to get the RRKM theory involved (see the “tight” and “loose” cracks).


July 2017: Josh arrives from Cardiff to start his Masters project on the electrodynamic levitation of microdroplets – studying oxidation on lipid droplets. Welcome Josh.

July 2017: The Laser Chemistry Group attended the ANZSMS meeting in Adelaide – Paddy, Cameron, Sam and Ben all presenting posters. Trevitt presented a talk on the group’s Laser Action Spectroscopy experiments. And Cameron won a best-poster prize. Trevitt was also presented with the ANZSMS Michael Guilhaus Research Award. We are sincerely thankful to ANZSMS and Waters for the award.

Here is a video of a prototype of the experiment related to that award (…yes, that is Blue-Tak on the sides).

Next, Cameron and Trevitt attended the RACI National Congress meeting in Melbourne. Cameron won a best-poster prize … again … for his poster in the Physical Chemistry Division poster session – he’s on fire.

June 2017: Shane Ellis (U Maastricht) and Steve Blanksby (QUT) and others collaborated with our Lab on laser activation of selected lipid ozonides. The paper is now online:

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May 2017: Goodbye Lewis. Lewis Hutton, our visiting Cardiff research student heads back home. He worked with us. for 8 months, to establish new a electrodynamic levitation device for the storage and chemical study of microdroplets. Thanks Lewis.


February 2017: Welcome Sam Marlton, Paddy Kelly and Ben McKinnon who have started their Honours year in the Laser Chemistry Lab. Exciting year ahead

December 2016: Congratulations to Dr Bart Vaughn – his PhD thesis “Development of single microdroplet techniques for fundamental chemical measurements” is complete.


December 2016: Our joint paper with Dr Berwyck Poad (QUT), Steve Blanksby (QUT) and collaborators at ANU and USyd reported a new superbase – and this molecule is in the running for C & EN’s Molecule of the Year. Vote here:


November 2016: Congratulations to Cameron for picking up the Best 1st Year PhD talk prize for the School of Chemistry from this year’s School conference.

November 2016: Adam visited China as part of the ATSE’s YSEP China-Australia program. Seven Universities in 10 days: Beijing Normal U, Peking U, Beijing Int. Tech., Dalian Chemical Physics, USTC (NRSL), Shanghai Jiao Tong and Shanghai U.


Amazing journey – exciting science. LINK

October 2016: Ben, our u/grad project student , submits his final report – awesome new picosecond time-resolved results.

October 2016: Cameron and Trevitt visit the Advance light source for experiments with collaborators at Caltech and Sandia NL — successful experiments (and very little sleep).

September 2016: Cameron and Matthew present their phd research at the raci physical chemistry student conference in katoomba, nsw. awesome meeting.

September 2016: Bart presents his final phd seminar to a packed house at uow.

September 2016: congrats to Matthew for jointly winning the 2016 Larry & Marilyn Hick Award, which is awarded for “the best research paper by a HDR student in the School of Chemistry at UOW”. for his paper: “M. B. Prendergast et al. Formation and stability of gas-phase o-benzoquinone from oxidation of ortho-hydroxyphenyl: a combined neutral and distonic radical study, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 18, 4320-4332 (2016). 

jul2016: Matt wins a poster prize at the International Symposium on Gas Kinetics and Related Phenomena in york, uk. great conference! #gk2016york

jul2016: poad’s paper on a superbase with the highest predicted proton affinity is published in chemical science and was highlighted in chemistry world – awesome collaboration with qut, anu, usyd and uow.

Also featured in C&E News

JUN2016: Bart’s paper on microdroplet generation is published in RSC advances – very nice.

JUN2016: Our collaboration with u. melb researchers on the photoactivity of retinal is published in jasms.

APR2016: Matthew, Cameron and trevitt complete a experimental mission at the advanced light source, lbnl, usa with our sandia nl collaborators – exciting data!

FEB2016: Chris hansen departs to U. bristol to commence a postdoc – good luck chris!

FEB2016: Cameron Starts his PhD studies with us.

feb2016: Matthew’s hydroxyphenyl oxidation paper is highlighted as a cover in phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.

Feb2016: James and Cameron present their results at the pacific conference on spectroscopy and dynamics at asilomar, California

FEB2016: Matthew gives a talk at physchem2016 in christchurch, NZ

FEB2016: a perspective article on CN and CH radicals by trevitt and goulay appears in phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.

OCT2015: Matthew’s paper on aromatic radical oxidation  and the stability of ortho-benzoquinone is accepted in phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. joint study at UOW and the Advanced light source. great collaborations

AUG2015: Alumnus Catherine publishes a paper based on her honours work in PCCP – great collaborative effort.

AUG2015: James won a poster prize at the ANZSMS/AOMSC Mass spectrometry meeting in Brisbane – nice job.

JULY2015: Joint paper with groups at QUT and UC Riverside – on laser PD mass spectrometry of lipid complex – is accepted in Int. J. Mass. Spec.

JULY2015: Our Collaboration with Alumi Dr Ben Kirk (LBNL) and Sandia National Labs – on the molecular weight growth radical chemistry of the 1-propynyl radical – is published in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.

MAy2015: Chris’s paper on protonated quinoline photodissociation is out in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. It is part of a special issue on Optical spectroscopy coupled with mass spectrometry methods

MAR2015: Cameron commences his Honours Project year investigating THE Laser levitation of microdroplets

Feb2015: James Starts his PHD journey studying ions and radicals with laser spectroscopy and mass spectrometry

JAN2015: Chris’s Paper on the UV photodissociation of protonated pyridine is now out in J. Chem. Phys.

JAN2015: Trevitt is now on the Editorial board for international journal of chemical kinetics

DEC2014: Matt wins BEST poster prize at the RACI National CONGress meeting in Adelaide and Chris presented a talk on protonated azabenzne photodissociation.

DEC2014: welcome Cameron to the group who is working with us over the summer

OCT2014: OUR collaboration on Charge-Tagged beta-Hydroxyperoxyl Radical appears in PCCP

OCT2014: HONOURS students James, Catherine and Jacob submit their theses – sizzling hot results!

AUG2014: Bart presents his microdroplet research at IAC2014 in busan, S. Korea.

JUN2014: Chris presents his research on the photodissociation spectroscopy of N-substituted aromatics in a talk at ISMS, UIUC, Illinois, USA

MAY2014: xylyl radical decomposition paper (mentioned below) is highlighted on cover of JPCA

MAr2014: collaborative paper – with PSI (SWITZ) and

U. Melbourne – on xylyl radical decomposition and spectroscopy is JUSt accepted in J. phys. Chem. A

FEB2014: Phil’s paper on the rapid profiling of photodissociation in droplets is accepted in analytical chemistry

FEB2014: Matt and Chris present their latest results at Pacific conference on spectroscopy and dynamics, Asilomar, California.

JAN2014: Our collaboration on the Photodissociation of TEMPO-modified peptides appears in PCCP

DEC2013: Bart wins a best poster prize at RACI physchem2103 in hobart.

NOV2013: Matt’s methylphenyl oxidation paper is now accepted and online in Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.

NOV2013: Congrats to Honours students Brendon and Matt For completing EXCELLENT projects

OCT2013: OUR recent SLS study on xylyl radical decomposition appears on ACS LIVESLIDES:

view it here.

OCT2013: Collaboration with LBNL, UC Berkeley and Sandia on CH + acrolein nets publication in J. Phys. Chem. A

SEP2013: Hansen’s n-methyl Pyridiunium action spectroscopy paper appears in J. Phys Chem A.

SEP2013: Trevitt is awarded the 2014 RACI Physical Chemistry Division Lectureship

AUG2013: Ben Kirk leaves to start his new position at the Advanced Light Source, LBNL, California. good luck ben!

July2013: Our swiss light source collaborative study on the meta-xylyl thermal decomposition now ONLINE in JPC Lett

July2013: Trevitt and Prendergast’s vuv synchrotron study on CH + propene is now ONLINE

July2013:  Poad’s landmark carbonyloxyl radical article in angEw. Chemie is now online

July2013: KIRK’s dianion paper is now online

JUN2013: Bezzina and Hankins complete ugrad projects and Nick Reed completes honours – exciting results.

JUN2013: Hansen presents his lastest results in a talk at ASMS, Minneapolis

MAY2013: JACS paper on peroxy radical action spectroscopy is now online DOI: 10.1021/ja402610s. Well done to all


APR2013: HANSEN’S HALOANILINE ACtion spectroscopy paper is out iN JASMS

APR2013: Kirk’s NO2 Distonic Radical paper is published in the DIstonic IOns focus ISSUE of JASMS

FEB2013: Hansen winS ANZSMS POSTER PRIZE – he’s on fire

FEB2013: Welcome new Honours students – Brendon and Matt T (joinT with Dr poad)

NOV2012: Hansen winS Free Rads CARNIVAL POSTER PRIZE

NOV2012: Our new ESKPLA picosecond

pulsewidth laser has BEEN INSTALLED – thanks to a UOW equipment grant