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My research is driven by an interest in the development and properties of new molecular and nanostructured materials, for energy conversion, energy storage and chemical sensing. My group has expertise in Raman spectroscopy including resonance Raman spectroscopy, theory of Raman intensities, surface and plasmon enhanced Raman and we have recently built a low-frequency Raman microscopy system.
Our current research activities focus on the chemistry and spectroscopy of graphene nanoribbons. We use our expertise in Raman spectroscopy to analyse the edge structure of graphene nanoribbons produced by mechanical fracturing. Edge structure determines the physical properties and chemistry of the graphene nanoribbons. Controlling the functional groups at the nanoribbons provides a route to controlling the physical properties of nanoribbon suspensions and ultimately, to controlling the self-assembly of nanoribbon structures.
We are applying Raman spectroscopy to complex analytical problems. We collaborate with medical researchers, veterinarians, ecologists, plant biologists, engineers and food scientists and work with statisticians and mathematicians to apply state-of-the-art data analysis to Raman data sets, for the purpose of classification (e.g. skin cancers) or following chemical or physical changes to various materials.
We welcome international PhD students to our group, and under an agreement with the New Zealand Government, international PhD students pay tuition fees at the same rate as domestic students. International students may also apply for Massey Doctoral Scholarships International Students and New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships.
Roles and Responsibilities
Nanoscience Major Leader
College of Sciences Board
Pacifichem 2015 Organising Committee Member
I have been on the academic staff in the Institute of Fundamental Sciences since 2003. In 2012 I was promoted to Associate Professor. I led the development and introduction, in 2009, of the Nanoscience Major in the BSc programme. I received my BSc(Hons) (1st Class) from the University of Otago in 1995 and my PhD, also from Otago, in 1998. My research interests include the development and characterisation of carbon nanomaterials and the application of Raman spectroscopy to complex analytical problems.
Graphene and MoS2 Nanoribbons
We use a mechanical fracturing technique to produce high quality graphene nanoribbons. Polarised Raman spectroscopy is a powerful tool for analysing the edge structures of graphene nanoribbons and we have used polarised Raman microscopy for this purpose. More recently we have adapted the mechanical fracturing technique to the production of MoS2 nanoribbons.
We have selectively modified the edges of the graphene nanoribbons and have used plasmon enhanced IR and Raman techniques for the analysis of our modified nanoribbons.
We use Raman spectroscopy as a probe of both molecular structure and dynamics. Most recently, we have demonstrated, using resonance Raman spectroscopy, that the excited-state dynamics of phenyl-substituted dipyrrin compounds are controlled by the free rotation of the phenyl substituent. We have also demonstrated that the Raman cross-sections of dipyrrins are amongst the strongest known, making dipyrrins, with their distinct lack of fluorescence ideal candidates as Raman probes.
We have also examined the femtosecond (fs) dynamics of Cu(I) bis-phenanthrolines excited-states using a time-domain wavepacket description of resonance Raman intensities. This work follows a number of detailed ultrafast dynamical studies using fluorescence techniques (Tahara et al). The resonance Raman studies provide the missing link between the earliest possible dynamics in the excited-state (i.e. dynamics in the Franck-Condon region) and the femtosecond dynamics probed by ultrafast techniques. The resonance Raman analysis shows that ligand reorganization occurs directly following photoexcitation, which suggests that ligand reorganization must occur either before or at least simultaneously with the well-documented dynamics associated with the change in geometry around the copper metal centre.
We have also used Raman spectroscopy to investigate the structure of room temperature ionic liquids. Ionic liquids have many interesting properties and they have improved the efficiencies of dye-sensitized solar cells. We are interested in the fundamental properties of RTILs as solvents and how they relax around molecular excited-states. We are currently using resonance Raman intensity analysis to develop a semi-quantitative scale of solvent reorganization energies for RTILs analogous to scales of polarity as developed by Reichardt and others.
Chemometrics for Equine Physiology
More recently we have expanded our interests beyond the properties of materials into the applications of vibrational spectroscopy to biological systems. We have collaborated with statisticians (A/Prof Geoff Jones) and equine physiologists (Dr Catherine Nicholson) and using chemometric techniques we have developed a FTIR-based technique for the analysis of bone disease in horses. This worked was recently published in Analytical Chemistry.
Field of research codes
Chemical Science (030000): Colloid and Surface Chemistry (030603): Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural (030600): Quantum Chemistry (030701): Structural Chemistry and Spectroscopy (030606): Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (030700)
The Nanoscience major was introduced to Massey in 2009 and is the only undergraduate nanoscience programme in New Zealand. Nanoscience offers a unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching undergraduate science. We discuss the latest developments in the field (e.g. graphene, plasmonics), building on a rigorous foundation in chemistry, physics and biology.
I have introduced guided-inquiry laboratory practices to the undergraduate programme at 100-level and 300-level and am currently developing the use of audience response systems for large (and small) classroom teaching.
I teach Nanoscience, Chemistry and Physics. I encourage students to utilise their mathematics skills and am currently investigating the use of the WolframAlpha app for smartphones and tablets in teaching physical chemistry, nanoscience and statistical physics.