atom Atomic and Molecular Physics

(Professor Michael Brunger)

Research in Atomic and Molecular physics is largely experimentally based, although a significant modelling capability has been developed.

Traditional crossed beam measurements (see 'Cross sections for Electron Scattering from Molecules and Radicals of Technological Relevance ', and 'Fundamental electron scattering experiments from molecules ) have been supplemented with a statistical equilibrium approach to model the electronic-vibrational behaviour of molecules in planetary atmospheres, under different environments. Orbital imaging (see 'High-Resolution EMS and Density Functional Theory (DFT) studies on Larger Organic Molecules ', and 'Intermolecular Interaction probed via Electron Momentum Spectroscopy (EMS) of van der Waals Molecules and Clusters ') of relevant species is achieved through electron momentum spectroscopy, with a strong theory support for this work being provided by national and multinational collaborations.

Research into positron interactions with matter has recently become a focus, with strong staff involvement in the Australian Research Council Centre for Antimatter/ Matter Studies (CAMS).

Professor Michael Brunger: Research Projects

  • Cross sections for Electron Scattering from Molecules and Radicals of Technological Relevance
    (M. J. Brunger, D. Jones and S.J. Buckman)
  • Intermolecular Interaction probed via Electron Momentum Spectroscopy (EMS) of van der Waals Molecules and Clusters
    (W. D. Lawrance, M. J. Brunger and E. Virgo)
  • High-Resolution EMS and Density Functional Theory (DFT) studies on Larger Organic Molecules
    (M. J. Brunger, S. Bellm and J. Builth-Williams)
  • Fundamental electron scattering experiments from molecules
    (M. J. Brunger, D. Jones, S. Bellm, H. Tanaka, H Kato and M. Hoshino [Sophia University, Japan], S. J. Buckman [Australian National University], G. Garcia [CSIC, Spain])
  • Vibrational-electronic studies of molecules under auroral and ionospheric conditions: Earth, Comets, Mars, Titan and Venus
    (L. Campbell, M. J. Brunger, S. Jayaraman)
  • Centre for Antimatter-Matter Studies
    (M.J. Brunger, L. Campbell, D. Jones, L. Chiari and S. Bellm)
  • Positron scattering from atoms and molecules (M.J. Brunger, L. Chiari, A. Zecca, E. Tranotti [Trento Unviersity, Italy]) 

Dr Laurence Campbell: Research Projects

  • Vibrational-electronic studies of molecules under auroral and ionospheric conditions: Earth, Mars, Titan and Venus
    ( L. Campbell, M. J. Brunger)
  • Centre for Antimatter-Matter Studies 

Molecular Structure of Soft Matter Interfaces

(Assoc Prof Gunther Andersson)

Interfaces have special properties as the distribution of matter is discontinuous at the interface. Due to the high mobility of molecules in soft matter, interfaces involving these materials are usually at equilibrium. These facts make interfaces very interesting for studying both fundamental interface properties as well as studying interface modifications for technical applications. Assoc Prof Andersson’s research group uses two unique surface science techniques, Neutral Impact Collision Ion Scattering Spectroscopy (NICISS) and Metastable Induced Electron Spectroscopy (MIES). They can be applied for analysing a broad range of liquid and solid surfaces and interfaces.

Assoc Prof Andersson’s research projects are:
• Structure and forces in thin foam films
• Modification of interfaces in microfluidic devices
• Interfaces in polymer based photovoltaic devices (OPV)
• Interfaces in due sensitized solar cells (DSC)
• Heterogeneous catalysis with size selected nanoclusters

Assoc Prof Andersson’s research group has various collaborations with research groups in Australia and overseas and uses larger research facilities like the Australian Synchrotron and high energy ion scattering techniques at ANSTO.

Theoretical Nuclear/Elementary Particle Physics

(Dr Boris Blankleider)

Some of the least understood and most mysterious phenomena in Nature happen at a scale more than a million times smaller than that of nanometers. This is the realm of "elementary particles": quarks, gluons, pions, rho-mesons, neutrons, protons,  etc., all interacting through the little understood "strong interactions". Driving the research of this tiny realm are such fundamental questions as, "What is the atomic nucleus made out of?", "What stops the atomic nuclei from blowing apart?", and "How and why did nuclei (and therefore atoms and molecules) form in the Early Universe?". To help unravel the workings of this tiny world, there is a huge world-wide experimental effort to probe atomic nuclei and their constituents with high-energy beams of electrons, positrons, photons, protons, and many other types  of  particles  (see  for  example,,,,  At Flinders we are developing novel theoretical models that aim to provide the world's most accurate descriptions of some currently measured strong-interaction processes. In conjunction with this effort, honours projects are available that will help implement these accurate models, thereby paving the way to a better understanding of strong interactions.

Condensed matter/many-body physics

(Dr Boris Blankleider)

The physics of many-body systems has wide-ranging applications: at one extreme it can be used to understand the structure of neutron stars, and at another it describes exotic quark matter states. Many- body  physics  is  also  of  particular  relevance  to  nanotechnology,  as  it  provides  the  theoretical description of  metals, semi-conductors, superconductors, etc. A  number of  Honours  projects are available that will be of particular interest to Nanotechnology students - they involve the study of how properties of two- and three-particle systems (mass, wavefunction, superconductivity, etc.) change when taken from vacuum and embedded in an infinite-body medium (like a metal or neutron star).

Process Physics

(Professor Reg Cahill)

A new paradigm for the modelling of reality is currently being developed called Process Physics.

Dynamical 3-Space

(Professor Reg Cahill)

The existence of a dynamical 3-space has been missed by physicists for all of the last century, although now known to have been detected in numerous experiments using at least four different techniques.  New experimental techniques at Flinders have now made it possible to easily detect this 3-space, with particular interest in the wave/turbulence phenomena that it exhibits.  The discovery of this 3-space has lead to a rebuilding of fundamental physics.  Possible projects range from further study of the theory of the 3-space dynamics, with emphasis on comparison with data from various experiments and astronomical observations, to analysis of experimental data from a gravitational-wave/3-space-turbulence detector now operating at Flinders.

Biological Sensors and Bioenergetics

(Dr Roman Dronov)

Exciting research opportunities are available in the interdisciplinary fields of biological sensors and bioenergetics. This work is a collaborative research involving scientists at Flinders University (Prof. Nico Voelcker, Dr. Ingo Koeper), The University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (Austria), Wildau University of Applied Sciences (Germany), and Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Projects include:

→ Self-assembly of proteins in porous materials for biosensor applications;
→ Spectroelectrochemical detection of multiple analytes;
→ Heterogeneous electron transfer of proteins for the development of third generation biosensors;
→ Biocatalysis and biofuel cells.

Optical biosensors translate the concentration of a test analyte into a measurable optical response typically achieved through highly specific bioaffinity interactions. The efficiency of such systems is often proportional to their active surface area. Here, porous materials, such as porous silicon films offer significant advantages.

Bacterial S-layer proteins are found in the outermost cell envelope component of many bacteria, and represent building blocks of one of the most robust self-assembled biological systems known. S-layer proteins reassemble into two-dimensional crystalline arrays on various surfaces (e.g. silicon, metals, polymers) and interfaces (e.g. planar lipid films or liposomes). We will study the assembly of these layers in porous materials suitable for biosensor applications.

With the help of neutron scattering techniques neutron reflectometry (NR) and small angle neutron scattering (SANS) we will perform detailed investigation of the formed protein layers inside the porous  materials,  and  check  their  stability  in  the  intended  test  media  (such  as  blood  plasma, contaminated water, or food extracts).

Redox proteins and enzymes offer a simple and efficient method for the construction of biosensors. These  molecules  usually  show  very  high  selectivity  (react  with  only  one  or  very  few  similar compounds). By immobilisation of proteins onto electrochemical electrodes these reactions can be influenced by applying electric potential while recording current as a biosensor's response.

Electrodes carrying active enzymes can be used as components of biofuel cells, transforming chemical energy through catalytic conversion of biofuels (e.g. glucose) into electricity. These systems have potential applications as a renewable energy source in areas, such as space missions or implantable devices, where a low power long term energy production is necessary.

Molecular Dynamics

(Professor Warren Lawrance)

Molecular dynamics is an area at the interface between chemistry and physics.  The goal in this field is to gain a detailed understanding of chemical and physical processes at the molecular level.

Smart Surface Structures

(Prof Joe Shapter and Assoc Professor Jamie Quinton)

The  Smart  Surface  Structures  research  group  at  Flinders  is  primarily  interested  in  technology enabling surface architectures, which are achieved through exploiting the physics and chemistry of surfaces and interfaces.  We seek to understand atomic and molecular mechanisms that take place and with knowledge of these, produce enhanced interfaces with properties tailored and optimised for their specific application.  At the moment, our group's research effort is concentrated in the following areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Surface Nanostructures - Nanoscale surface phenomena, mechanisms of assembly, structural transitions and kinetic processes in atomic and molecular surface clusters, nanoparticles and thin films
  • Surface Attachment - supporting structures for sensor design materials
  • Surface Modification - tailoring the chemical, physical and mechanical properties of surfaces and interfaces for compatibility in their specific application
  • Corrosion protection - alternatives to currently used, hazardous, inorganic treatments
  • Novel Photovoltaics - building new architectures for harvesting solar power
  • Catalysis - the influence of morphology and particle size upon catalytic behaviour of surfaces
  • Polymer Physics - the influence of crystallinity and morphology on material properties
  • Molecular Electronics - aimed at producing atomic and molecular-scale wires on surfaces and involves a range of spectroscopic and surface science techniques, such as (but not limited to) electron spectroscopy (XPS, UPS, AES), streaming zeta-potential measurement (SZP), mass spectrometry (ToFSIMS), scanning probe microscopies (STM, AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman confocal microscopy and synchrotron measurements.

Current Projects

Our group is actively engaged in the following research areas

  • Functionalised carbon surfaces (graphite, nanotubes, diamond, glassy carbon)
  • Understanding and controlling molecular self-assembly processes (eg orientation)
  • Determination of the adsorbate adhesion energy of surface-bound species
  • Environmentally superior corrosion protection coatings
  • Fabrication of improved solar cells
  • Soft Lithographic, molecular-level controlled surface architectures
  • Optically active coatings
  • Surface immobilised size-selected clusters

and undertakes a number of collaborative efforts with other groups within the school, as well as other researchers outside Flinders.  Some of the collaborations from outside Flinders involve people from CSIRO, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Institute for Medical and Veterinary Science (IMVS), Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), University of New South Wales (UNSW), Orica Mining Services, Bridge 8, University of Canterbury in NZ and the SA Museum.